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WHO report shows key public health milestones, greater global humanitarian needs

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) report of 2023 shows achievement of key public health milestones,

amid greater global humanitarian health needs, driven by conflicts, climate change and disease outbreaks.

The organisation made this known in a statement on Tuesday.

It stated that the report would be released ahead of the 77th World Health Assembly which runs from May 27 – June 1, 2024.

The global organisation said its revised Programme Budget for 2022–2023 was 6726.1 million dollars, incorporating lessons

learned from the COVID-19 pandemic response and addressing emerging health priorities.

It stated that with 96 per cent of WHO country offices providing 174 reports on achievements, the report showed some progress toward 46 targets and some challenges.

The report quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, as saying “the world was off track to reach most of the triple billion targets

and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“However, with concrete and concerted action to accelerate progress, we could still achieve substantial subset of them.

“Our goal is to invest more resources where they matter most at the country level, while ensuring sustainable and flexible financing to support our mission.”

Ghebreyesus said the report showed advancement in several key areas, including healthier populations, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health emergencies protection.

“Related to healthier populations, the current trajectory indicates the target of one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being will likely be met by 2025.

“The target will be driven primarily by improvements in air quality and access to water, sanitation and hygiene measures.

“In terms of UHC, 30 per cent of countries are moving ahead in coverage of essential health services and providing financial protection. This is largely due to increased HIV service coverage.”

The director-general said that regarding emergencies protection, though the coverage of vaccinations for high-priority pathogens showed improvement relative to the COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions in 2020–2021, it has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

He explained that “the pandemic fund’s first disbursements totalled 338 million dollars in 2023, supporting 37 countries to fund the initial response to acute events and scale up life-saving health operations in protracted crises.

“WHO continues to work with countries and partners to enhance genomic sequencing capabilities and strengthen laboratory and surveillance systems worldwide, with capacity increased by 62 per cent for SARS-CoV-2 between February 2021 and December 2023.”

The WHO boss also said that the  world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S/AS01, was administered to more than two million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi during the biennium, reducing mortality by 13 per cent among children eligible for vaccination.

According to him, WHO’s prequalification of a second vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, is expected to further boost malaria control efforts.

“Elsewhere, 14 countries eliminated at least one neglected tropical disease from 2022–2023. Bangladesh eliminated two.

“The first-ever all-oral treatment regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis were made available in 2022, allowing the highest number of people with tuberculosis to get treatment since monitoring started almost 30 years ago.

“Thanks to WHO’s REPLACE initiative, which aims to eliminate industrially produced trans-fatty acids from food supply, an additional 13 countries implemented best-practice policies, bringing the total to 53 countries.

“More than 75 per cent of people living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy, with most achieving viral suppression, meaning they cannot infect others.

“WHO’s guidance and support also helped countries like Botswana to achieve significant progress in controlling HIV transmission,’’ Ghebreyesus said.

According to him, tobacco use is declining in 150 countries, 56 of which are on track to achieving global target for reducing tobacco use by 2025.

He said additional 29 countries developed multisectoral national action plans on antimicrobial resistance during the biennium 2022–2023, bringing the total to 178 countries.

Ghebreyesus said that following the call by WHO to eliminate cervical cancer, another 25 countries introduced the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, bringing the total to 58 that have introduced the vaccine since WHO launched the initiative in 2020.

According to him, the report acknowledges significant disparities in health outcomes, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that persistent health workforce shortages require investments in education and employment.

“Looking ahead, WHO’s Programme Budget for 2024–2025 aims to balance investment in the organisation’s normative functions, with the need to strengthen country offices.

“It aims to fund 80 per cent  of planned budget of high-priority items, thereby accelerating progress toward meeting the triple billion targets of the GPW 13 (current WHO strategy for the period 2019-2023),’’ he said.

 

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