The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave a grim assessment of the many health challenges and threats facing people around the world this year.
At the top of the list was the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened and killed millions for the third year running. He pointed to a global outbreak of monkeypox, now known as mpox, an Ebola outbreak in Uganda and cholera outbreaks in many countries as other health crises.
He said these emergencies were compounded by wars in Ethiopia and Ukraine, as well as climate disasters, including drought and floods in the greater Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and floods in Pakistan.
And yet, as 2022 draws to a close, he said there was plenty of reason for hope.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has declined significantly this year, the global outbreak of monkeypox is fading and there have been no cases of Ebola in Uganda for more than three weeks,” he said. “We expect that each of these emergencies will be declared at different points next year.”
While the pandemic is not over, Tedros said great progress has been made in curbing its spread. He noted that a year ago, COVID-19 was killing 50,000 people a week. This has now fallen to less than 10,000 deaths per week.
Despite the significant decline, he warned that the virus is here to stay and people must learn how to manage the disease. He called for vigilance, masking, social distancing and above all vaccination.
Looking ahead to the coming year, he said WHO’s focus will be on health promotion and disease prevention.
“Instead of focusing on taking care of the sick like us, we focus on health care, which means keeping people healthy,” Tedros said. “And we will do everything to do that. But for that to happen, we will also focus on pushing for universal health coverage, especially with the transition to primary health care as the foundation.”
The WHO chief cited emergency preparedness and response as another priority. With new strains of the virus emerging, he stressed the importance of doing everything possible to prepare the world for future pandemics.