WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on COVID-19 - 22 April

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Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all Member States, and thank you for joining us once again.

This Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the launching of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Tomorrow we will hold a special press conference involving the principals of all the partners in the ACT Accelerator.

As you know, the ACT Accelerator was conceived with two major objectives: rapid development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics; and equitable access to those tools.

The first objective has been achieved. We have several safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19; we have rapid diagnostics to test it; and we have oxygen and dexamethasone to treat it.

But as we see all over the world, whether or not people benefit from these tools depends on where they live, who they are and what they earn.

Our urgent task now is to urgently expand equitable access to all the tools needed to stop infections and save lives.

And yet far from celebrating victory over the pandemic, new infections have been climbing for eight straight weeks, and deaths have increased for five weeks.

Last week, more than 5.2 million cases of COVID-19 were reported, the most in a single week so far, and more than 3 million people have now lost their lives.

It took nine months for the virus to kill one million people, four months to reach two million, and just three months to reach three million.

Infections and hospitalizations among people aged 25 to 59 are increasing at an alarming rate, probably as a result of highly transmissible variants and increased social mixing.

My colleagues, I know that many of your populations are fed-up with public health measures that have restricted many parts of life. We all are. But they work. They save lives.

Vaccines are giving us all hope, but vaccines alone will not end the pandemic.

We have the tools to bring this pandemic under control in a matter of months, but only if we use those tools consistently and equitably.

On Monday the Emergency Committee gave me its advice on vaccines, variants, international travel and other issues. Its full statement is available on our website.

Developing life-saving tools is one thing, but they don't deliver themselves.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, WHO's logistics team has played a vital role in delivering essential medical supplies all over the world through the Supply Chain Task Force, which WHO co-chairs with the World Food Programme.

So far, the Task Force has coordinated the procurement and delivery of US$ 1.2 billion of essential supplies to support COVID-19 response efforts in 193 countries.

As of mid-March, that includes more than 67 million diagnostic tests, 1.1 billion units of personal protective equipment and 2.4 million critical biomedical items, such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other equipment.

The head of our logistics team, Paul Molinaro, will give you more detail shortly.

To fund all of this work, we rely on the generosity of donors.

Two months ago, WHO launched our Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for 2021, which included an appeal for US$ 1.96 billion, almost US$ 2 billion.

So far, 30 percent of the SPRP is funded.

We have received pledges for an additional US$ 400 million, which would bring us up to 50 percent.

We are very grateful to Member States and other donors for your generosity. But we have a challenge: Nearly all of this funding is earmarked.

As you know, we are in a fast-moving response environment. We need flexibility, and cannot afford to be hobbled by overly restricted funding.

The SPRP appeal campaign, which includes WHO's work through the ACT Accelerator, is now entering its next phase. US$ 1.2 billion of the SPRP is for WHO's work through the ACT Accelerator, of which we have received 10 percent to date.

We are updating our appeal document and will be sharing it with you soon.

We will also present more detail on WHO's work under the ACT Accelerator.

Finally, tomorrow we begin an exciting project, the Global Youth Mobilization, through which young people around the world can apply for grants of between 500 and 5000 US dollars, to support innovative local solutions to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Youth Mobilization has been established in partnership with the six largest youth development organizations in the world, and supported by the Solidarity Response Fund.

To kick off the Global Youth Mobilization, we will hold a Global Youth Summit from tomorrow until Sunday.

Excellencies, as always, we are grateful for your support, and we look forward to your questions and comments.

Thank you so much.