Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was updating journalists about the outcome of the funding conference for the recently launched ACT Accelerator to speed up production of treatments to beat the disease.
“Today, countries came together not only to pledge their financial support, but also to pledge their commitment to ensuring all people can access life-saving tools for COVID-19; accelerating development of products, but at the same time, access for all”, he said, speaking from Geneva.
Making medicines available to all
Tedros stressed that the “true measure of success” will depend on equitable distribution of the new medicines, not on how fast they can be developed.
“None of us can accept a world in which some people are protected while others are not. Everybody should be protected”, he said.
Tedros underlined the WHO’s commitment to work with all countries and partners to accelerate the development and production of the medicines, and to ensure that they are shared equally.
“This is an opportunity for the world to come together to confront a common threat, but also to forge a common future; a future in which all people enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health – and the products that deliver that right,” he said.
Additional resources needed
However, the pledges made on Monday only cover one part of COVID-19 response.
Tedros said more funds will be needed in the coming months to meet the global demand for personal protective equipment, medical oxygen in hospital care, and other essential supplies.
In this regard, WHO will this week launch an updated Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to outline resources needed to support international response and national action plans through the end of the year.
Clean hands: a matter of life and death
Meanwhile, Tedros also highlighted the importance of one of the simplest ways to ward off COVID-19 and other diseases.
Throughout the crisis, WHO has promoted the value of handwashing. Ahead of Hand Hygiene Day on Tuesday, the UN agency again reminds people everywhere of this basic practice.
“The simple act of cleaning hands can be the difference between life and death, and remains one of the most important public health measures for protecting individuals, families and communities against COVID-19 – and many other diseases,” Tedros said.
Unfortunately, millions worldwide still do not have access to water and sanitation facilities.
Tedros reported that less than two-thirds of health facilities globally have hand hygiene stations, while three billion people lack soap and water at home.
“If we are to stop COVID-19 or any other source of infection, and keep health workers safe, we must dramatically increase investments in soap, access to water, and alcohol-based hand rubs,” he said.
Clap your (clean) hands for midwives
Tuesday also marks the International Day of the Midwife, and WHO is calling for people everywhere to take a break at noon that day to clap for these health workers who continue to deliver vital services to mothers and newborns amid the pandemic.
The support provided by midwives is actually a lifeline for many, Tedros said, as research shows their interventions can avert over 80 per cent of all maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
“Midwives are essential for guiding and caring for women through their entire pregnancy, and for the critical moment of childbirth”, he said, adding “but we need more midwives in all countries, especially low-resource countries”.