World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a grim assessment of the many health challenges and threats people around the world have faced this year.
Topping the list was the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened and killed millions of people for a third year. He noted a global outbreak of monkeypox, now known as mpox, an Ebola outbreak in Uganda, and cholera outbreaks in multiple 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 flooding in the greater Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and flooding in Pakistan.
And yet, as 2022 draws to a close, he said there were many reasons for hope.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has declined significantly this year, the global monkeypox outbreak is waning, and there have been no cases of Ebola in Uganda for more than three weeks,” he said. “We are hopeful that each of these emergencies will be declared over at different points next year.”
While the pandemic is not over, Tedros said great progress has been made in containing its spread. He noted that one year ago, COVID-19 was killing 50,000 people a week. This now has dropped to fewer than 10,000 deaths a week.
Despite the significant decline, he cautioned the virus is here to stay and people have to learn how to manage the disease. He urged vigilance, masking, social distancing and, above all else, vaccinating.
Looking ahead to next year, he said the WHO’s focus will be on health promotion and disease prevention.
“Instead of focusing on sick care like we do, we focus on health care, meaning keeping people healthy,” said Tedros. “And we will do everything to make that happen. But for that to happen, we will also focus on pushing for universal health coverage, especially with a shift to primary health care as a foundation.”
The WHO chief cited emergency preparedness and response as another priority. With new virus strains emerging, he emphasized the importance of doing everything possible to prepare the world for future pandemics.