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WHO Director-General's opening remarks - High-level event to strengthen Africa’s resilience and response to Ebola and emerging and re-emerging health threats

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Your Excellency Secretary Blinken,

Your Excellencies Minister Longondo and Minister Lamah,

My colleagues Tshidi, John and Stanley,

Distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, et bonjour à tous.

I would like to thank the United States and the Africa CDC for hosting today’s event, and I would like to thank Secretary Blinken for your presence today, which shows your political commitment, and for announcing the generous contribution of US$30 million to the Ebola response. Thank you so much for your leadership.

It’s amazing to think that just five years ago, we were virtually defenceless against Ebola.

Now, vaccines give us the power to prevent it, and therapeutics give us the power to treat it.

But as COVID-19 is proving, just having vaccines and therapeutics does not automatically mean we can control outbreaks if those tools are not accessible.

That’s why last year, the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision, including IFRC, MSF, UNICEF and WHO, announced the creation of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile, to ensure timely access to vaccines for 23 at-risk countries in Africa.

Similar discussions are on-going to establish stockpiles for therapeutics and diagnostics.

But we must go beyond preparing for and responding to Ebola outbreaks, to doing everything we can to prevent them.

45 years after the first recorded Ebola outbreak, we are still learning about this disease.

Recent cases in Guinea and DRC were linked to body fluids of survivors, which is why WHO is strongly encouraging Ebola-affected countries to implement national survivor care programmes, to support survivors and to advance our understanding of long-term latency of the virus.

In the coming year, WHO will work with our Member States, partners and funding agencies to develop a comprehensive Global Ebola Prevention and Control Strategy.

As I often say, health security and health systems are two sides of the same coin.

Ultimately, the best thing we can do to prepare for, prevent and respond rapidly to outbreaks of Ebola and other diseases is to support countries on the road to universal health coverage, built on strong primary health care.

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that health is not a luxury, it’s the most precious commodity in life, and a fundamental human right.

That’s why WHO remains fully committed to working with all African Member States to prepare for, prevent and respond rapidly to Ebola, but also to build the health systems that Africa’s people deserve, for a healthier, safer and fairer future.

I thank you.