COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has humbled us all, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly from Geneva on Monday.
The WHO boss said the greatest failing after COVID-19 will be not to learn from the pandemic. He said the world should become safer and countries should invest more in health security.
Dr. Ghebreyesus called on world leaders to ensure that COVID-19 does not repeat itself again. He said COVID-19 has demonstrated that “investing in health should be at the center of development”.
He highlighted challenges countries are facing to balance health concerns with economic and social impacts.
“How do you practice physical distancing when you live in crowded conditions? How do you stay at home when you have to work to feed your family? How do you practice hand hygiene when you lack clean water?” he asked.
Dr. Ghebreyesus said the world should not lose focus on other health emergencies around the world even as it focuses on COVID-19.
“The disruption to health systems threatens to unwind decades of progress against maternal and child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, polio and many other of the most urgent health threats,” he said.
The World Health Assembly is taking place virtually because delegates cannot congregate to Geneva, Switzerland, because of COVID-19.
Every year, delegates from all 194 Member States that make up WHO gather to agree the Organization’s priorities, leadership, and budgets. At the Assembly, new health goals are set, and tasks are assigned in order to reach those goals.
Delegations consider and provide guidance on policies and courses of action, which are then coordinated and overseen by the secretariat. While WHO can make recommendations and suggest courses of action, particularly in unprecedented times of global health risk, it is ultimately up to each government to determine their response and act upon it. The WHO secretariat does not have the power to enforce any action from individual Member States.