UN Health Agency
India may be entering endemic stage of Covid: WHO
Covid-19 in India may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity with a low or moderate level of transmission going on, according to the chief scientist of the UN health agency. The endemic stage is when a population learns to live with a virus. It is very different to the epidemic stage when the virus overwhelms a population. Read:India gives emergency approval for world's first COVID-19 DNA vaccine "As far as India is concerned that seems to be what is happening and because of the size of India and heterogeneity of population and immunity status in different parts of the country in different pockets. It is very feasible that the situation may continue like this with ups and downs in different parts of the country, particularly where there are more susceptible populations," World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said in an interview Wednesday. "We may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity where low-level transmission or moderate level transmission is going on but we are not seeing the kinds of exponential growth and peaks that we saw a few months ago," Swaminathan said. During April-May this year, India witnessed a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read:'India likely to have Covid shot for children by September' "I hope by the end of 2022, we will be in that position that we have achieved vaccine coverage, say 70%, and then countries can get back to normal, " Swaminathan said. "Although it is possible that children could get infected in a third wave in large numbers, it is very unlikely that they will fall seriously ill. However, it is advisable to be prepared for more infections in children," the WHO chief scientist said.
Drowning kills 2.5 million people in last decade: WHO
Drowning is now a leading cause of death for children aged under five in many countries, the UN health agency said Friday. Around 2.5 million people died by drowning in the decade to 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, as it set out a series of simple measures to help reduce the "entirely preventable cause of death." Around 60% of all drowning deaths were among those under the age of 30, with the highest rates among children aged under five, the WHO said ahead of the first-ever World Drowning Prevention Day, which falls on Sunday. "The shocking numbers included an estimated 236,000 people in 2019 alone who lost their lives due to drowning," Dr David Meddings, from the WHO's Social Determinants of Health department, told the media. READ: Four children drown on Eid day Flooding-related fatalities and deaths due to water transport accidents and intentional drownings are not included in the overall statistics, the UN agency said. "The exact rate of mortality might be much higher." The decline in the death rates of children aged under five from all causes over the past 40 years had masked the residual problem of deaths due to drowning, David said. "Drowning is now a leading cause of death for children under the age of five, in many, many countries." Drowning was the leading cause of death for under-fives in China and the second-biggest in the US and France, he added. "In Bangladesh, an estimated 40 children died from drowning every day in 2016 alone." However, drowning rates in low- and middle-income countries are more than three times higher than in high-income nations. The WHO said drowning disproportionately affected poor and marginalised communities which have the fewest resources to adapt to the risks around them. READ: 2 children drown in Gaibandha pond However, simple steps could prevent many deaths, such as installing barriers around wells, providing safe places for children to play away from water, and teaching youngsters basic swimming and water safety skills, David said. Greater training in safe rescue and resuscitation techniques would also help people to assist anyone who is drowning. Enforcing safe shipping loading and ferry regulations, and improving flood risk management, are two other interventions recommended by the WHO.
Panel suggests WHO should have more power to stop pandemics
A panel of independent experts who reviewed the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.N. health agency should be granted “guaranteed rights of access” in countries to investigate emerging outbreaks, a contentious idea that would give it more powers and require member states to give up some of theirs. In a report released Wednesday, the panel faulted countries worldwide for their sluggish response to COVID-19, saying most waited to see how the virus was spreading until it was too late to contain it, leading to catastrophic results. The group also slammed the lack of global leadership and restrictive international health laws that “hindered” WHO’s response to the pandemic. Some experts criticized the panel for failing to hold WHO and others accountable for their actions during COVID-19, describing that as “an abdication of responsibility.” Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University said the panel “fails to call out bad actors like China, perpetuating the dysfunctional WHO tradition of diplomacy over frankness, transparency and accountability.” The panel was led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who were tapped by WHO last year to examine the U.N. agency’s response to COVID-19 after bowing to a request from member countries. “The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented,” Johnson Sirleaf said. Beyond the call to boost WHO’s ability to investigate outbreaks, the panel made an array of recommendations, such as urging the health agency and the World Trade Organization to convene a meeting of vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to quickly reach deals about voluntary licensing and technology transfer, in an effort to boost the world’s global supply of coronavirus shots. The panel also suggested that WHO’s director-general — currently Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia — should be limited to a single seven-year term. As it stands, the WHO chief is elected to a five-year term that can be renewed once. The suggestion to limit the tenure of WHO’s top leader appeared in part designed to ease the intense political pressure that WHO director-generals can face. Last year, the Trump administration repeatedly inveighed against the agency’s handling of the pandemic — taking aim at WHO’s alleged collusion with China. An Associated Press investigation in June found WHO repeatedly lauded China in public while officials privately complained that Chinese officials stalled on sharing critical epidemic information with them, including the new virus’ genetic sequence. Clark said the global diseases surveillance system needed to be overhauled — with WHO’s role strengthened. “WHO should have the powers necessary to investigate outbreaks of concern, speedily guaranteed rights of access, and with the ability to publish information without waiting for member state approval,” she said. Sophie Harman, a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London, said the panel’s recommendations were unlikely to be entirely welcomed by WHO’s member countries, and thus, unlikely to be implemented. “Which states would actually allow WHO in to investigate an outbreak without their permission?” she asked. Many doctors fatigued after treating COVID-19 patients said any reform of WHO should include an evaluation of its ability to properly assess the science of an emerging health threat. David Tomlinson, a British physician who has been campaigning for health workers during the pandemic in the U.K., said WHO “failed on the most fundamental aspect” in its scientific leadership of COVID-19. He said WHO’s failure to acknowledge that much coronavirus transmission happens in the air has “amplified the pandemic.” WHO has said coronavirus spread can happen in limited circumstances in the air but recommended against mask-wearing for the general public until last June. Clare Wenham, a professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, said the report overall was good, but questioned its support for the U.N.-backed program for coronavirus vaccines called COVAX, which relies on a “donation” model. Of the millions of COVID-19 vaccines administered to date, developing countries have received just 7%, WHO said this week. “(COVAX) is not addressing one of the main problems, which is we need to rapidly ramp up production of the vaccines and distribution of vaccines,” she said. “And it’s still working on the model of a finite number that’s only able be produced by a certain few manufacturing locations.” Overall, she suggested politicians needed to budge more than technical institutions like WHO. “The problems aren’t technical. The problems are political. The problems are about like: How do you get governments to behave and think about things beyond their own borders?” Wenham said. “I don’t think that has been resolved.”
Alert over shortage of new drugs for ‘world’s most dangerous bacteria’
A lack of new treatments for common infections has left people dangerously exposed to the “world’s most dangerous bacteria”, the UN health agency said on Thursday. The alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) is delivered in a report showing that none of the 43 antibiotics in development today sufficiently addresses the growing threat posed by 13 priority drug-resistant bacteria. “The persistent failure to develop, manufacture, and distribute effective new antibiotics is further fuelling the impact of antimicrobial resistance and threatens our ability to successfully treat bacterial infections,” said Dr. Hanan Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director General on antimicrobial resistance. Those most at risk are young children and those living in poverty, but antibiotic-resistant infections can affect anyone, said WHO partner AMR. Youngsters at risk According to WHO, three in 10 newborns who develop blood infections die, because the antibiotics that are used to treat sepsis are no longer effective. Bacterial pneumonia – another preventable illness which has developed resistance to available drugs – is also a major cause of childhood mortality among under-fives. WHO’s annual Antibacterial Pipeline Report, notes that almost all antibiotics available today are variations of those discovered by the 1980s. We rely hugely on them in all areas of our lives, from having a tooth out at the dentist, to organ transplants and cancer chemotherapy. Unproductive pipeline But after reviewing antibiotics that are in the clinical stages of testing, as well as those in development, the report highlighted a “near static pipeline” of production, which WHO’s Haileyesus Getahun likened to the “Achilles heel” of global health security. “Opportunities emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic must be seized to bring to the forefront the needs for sustainable investments in research and development of new and effective antibiotics,” said Mr. Getahun, WHO Director of Antimicrobial Resistance Global Coordination. “We need a global sustained effort including mechanisms for pooled funding and new and additional investments to meet the magnitude of the antimicrobial threat.” Only a few drugs have been given early-stage approval by regulators in recent years “and most of these agents…offer limited clinical benefit over existing treatments, WHO said, with the warning that the “rapid emergence of drug-resistance to these new agents” was a certainty. Fractional gains This was despite the fact that “some promising products” were in different stages of development, as only a fraction of these will make it to market in a sector hampered by the small return on investment from successful antibiotic products, which has limited the interest of most large pharmaceutical companies. “Overall, the clinical pipeline and recently approved antibiotics are insufficient to tackle the challenge of increasing emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance,” the UN agency concluded. Driving research To promote investment in antibiotics development, WHO and partner Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) have set up the Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership (GARDP) to develop innovative treatments. The UN health agency has also been working closely with other non-profit funding partners such as the CARB-X to accelerate antibacterial research. Another important new WHO-partnered initiative is the AMR Action Fund, that was set up by pharmaceutical companies, philanthropists and the European Investment Bank; its aim is to strengthen and accelerate antibiotic development through pooled funding.
SAGE approves 'safe and lifesaving' Janssen Covid jab
The UN health agency expert advisory board, SAGE, has approved the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine for international use, allaying concerns over clotting events being associated by some countries, without definitive evidence, with coronavirus jabs.
Kangaroo mother care can save lives of 125,000 newborns: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday highlighted the risks of separating newborns from their mothers, with new research showing that up to 125,000 lives could be saved by keeping them together to ensure skin-to-skin contact.
WHO study finds 1 in 3 women face physical, sexual violence
The U.N. health agency and its partners have found in a new study that nearly one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
COVID infections drop 16% worldwide in one week: WHO
In its latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that although the number of gobal infections has fallen by 16 per cent in a week – 500,000 fewer cases – regions, including Europe, are still in the grip of the virus whose variants are spreading, reports UN NEWS.
No room for complacency, despite drop in Covid cases: WHO
Confirming a drop in the number of Covid-19 cases globally for the fifth consecutive week, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned against complacency saying "the fire is not out" yet.
Covid impact: Cancer deaths likely to rise in coming years, says WHO
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a “profound” impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.