By Martins Ifijeh
In a bid to scale up medical and humanitarian supplies to poor countries fighting COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has inaugurated the United Nations COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force.
This is even as the pandemic Thursday clocked 100 days; leaving a trail of 1,543,563 confirmed cases of covid-19 and 90,054 deaths across 209 countries of the world.
Announcing this Thursday, the Director General, WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the supply chain will assist poor countries with low resources in halting the spread of the pandemic.
He said: “I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres for bringing all UN agencies together to contribute to the Supply Chain Task Force.’’
“Today marks 100 days since WHO was notified of the first cases of ‘pneumonia with unknown cause’ in China.
“It’s incredible to reflect on how dramatically the world has changed, in such a short period of time.”
Giving an overview of WHO activities in the last 100 days, Ghebreyesus said on January 1, just hours after being notified of the first cases of the virus, WHO activated its Incident Management Support Team to coordinate response at headquarters, regional and country level.
He said: “On January 5, we officially notified all Member States of this new outbreak, and published a disease outbreak news on our website.
“On January 10, we issued a comprehensive package of guidance to countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases, and protect health workers.’’
On the same day, he said WHO convened its strategic and technical advisory group on infectious hazards to review the situation.
Ghebreyesus said the UN health agency had been engaging with journalists since the beginning, responding to media enquiries around the clock.
“We convened the emergency committee on the 22nd of January, and again a week later, after the first cases of human-to-human transmission were reported outside China, and declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm.
“At the time there were 98 cases outside China, and no deaths.
“In February an international team of experts from Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States of America visited affected provinces in China to learn more about the virus, the outbreak and the response, and to glean lessons for the rest of the world.
“In early February the UN Crisis Management Team was activated to coordinate the entire machinery of the UN to support countries as effectively as possible.”
The DG said since then, the health body has been working day and night in five key areas,’’ he said.
First, the director general said WHO had been worked to support countries in building their capacity to prepare and respond to the virus.
“Through WHO’s network of six regional offices and 150 country offices, we’ve worked closely with governments around the world to prepare their health systems for COVID-19, and to respond when cases arrive.
“Second, we’ve worked with numerous partners to provide accurate information and fight the infodemic.’’
The director general also said the WHO had been working to train and mobilise health workers to manage the pandemic.
“More than 1.2 million people have enrolled in six courses in 43 languages on our OpenWHO.org platform. Our target is to train tens of millions, and we have all the readiness to train tens of millions, hundreds of millions.
“Experts have been deployed around the world through WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and our Emergency Medical Teams platform.’’
In addition, he said the agency had accelerated research and development on the virus.
“In February we brought more than 400 of the world’s leading researchers together to identify and accelerate research priorities.
“We launched the Solidarity Trial, with more than 90 countries working together to find effective therapeutics as soon as possible.
“To better understand the transmission, epidemiology and clinical features of the virus, we have developed research protocols that are being used in more than 40 countries, in a coordinated way.
“There are many other things WHO has done in the past 100 days that I haven’t mentioned. For the past 100 days, our unwavering commitment has been to serve all people of the world with equity, objectivity and neutrality. And that will continue to be our sole focus in the days, weeks and months ahead.’’ he said.