The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the fight against Coronavirus Disease is affecting the fight against polio and other diseases. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the organisation, disclosed this in a statement posted on the agency‘s website on Saturday.
Ghebreyesus said: “As you know, in recent years we have driven polio to the brink of eradication.
“This has been a massive global effort, started by Rotary, supported by many other partners, and led by thousands of health workers, vaccinating children in some very difficult and dangerous areas.
“Many of those health workers are now supporting the COVID-19 response. They are tracing contacts, finding cases and providing public health information to communities.”
Ghebreyesus said to reduce the risk of increasing transmission of the COVID-19, the polio oversight board had made the hard decision to suspend house-to-house vaccination campaigns, knowing that this may lead to an increase in polio cases.
He said: “To reduce this risk, we will support countries to maintain essential immunisation for all vaccine preventable diseases.
“WHO has published guidance for countries on how to maintain essential health services even while responding to this crisis.”
According to him, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is working to ensure that once it is safe to do so, countries can be supported to rapidly restart the polio vaccination campaigns.
Ghebreyesus said: “While all our energy may be focused on COVID-19 now, our commitment to eradicating polio is unshakeable.
“Sadly, there are reports from some countries of an increase in domestic violence since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
“As people are asked to stay at home, the risk of intimate partner violence is likely to increase.”
The director-general said women in abusive relationships were more likely to be exposed to violence.
He stated that they were likely to be exposed to violence and their children as family members spend more time in close contact and families cope with additional stress and potential economic or job losses.
Ghebreyesus said women, because of the situation, might have less contact with family and friends, who may provide support and protection from violence.
He said: “We call on countries to include services for addressing domestic violence as an essential service that must continue during the COVID-19 response.
“If you are experiencing or at risk of domestic violence, speak to supportive family and friends, seek support from a hotline, or seek out local services for survivors. Make a plan to protect yourself and your children any way you can.
“This could include having a neighbour, friend, relative, or shelter identified to go to, should you need to leave the house immediately. There is never any excuse for violence. We abhor all violence of all forms, at all times.”
In addition, Ghebreyesus said the global response to COVID-19 would not be possible without the generosity of countries and partners.
Two months ago, the director-general had said WHO issued its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, with an initial ask of $675 million to support the response.
He said: “I am delighted to say that almost US$690 million has now been pledged or received.
“Of this amount, US$300 million has been given to support WHO’s work, and the rest has been given on a bilateral basis, or to other organisations involved in the response.
“I will like to thank the State of Kuwait, which today is becoming one of the largest donors, with a total of US$60 million.
“WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund has now raised more than US$127 million from more than 219,000 individuals and organisations. I will like to thank Tencent for its contribution of US$10 million.”
Ghebreyesus noted that WHO had invited UNICEF to join the Solidarity Response Fund.
According to him, UNICEF has extensive experience both in fundraising and in implementing programmes and such partnership will assist to work together closely to save lives.
He said: “We still have a long way to go in this fight. WHO is working every day with all countries and partners to save lives, and to mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic.”
Ghebreyesus further said WHO had discussed with Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing-Director of the International Monetary Fund, on the economic impact of the virus and the support IMF would give to support countries.
According to him, more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, including more than 50,000 deaths.
He said: “But we know that this is much more than a health crisis. We are all aware of the profound social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
“The restrictions many countries have put in place to protect health are taking a heavy toll on the income of individuals and families, and the economies of communities and nations.
“We are in a shared struggle to protect both lives and livelihoods.
“In the short term, countries can ease the burden on their populations through social welfare programmes to ensure people have food and other life essentials.”