WHO Spends $1.7bn on COVID-19 Response

•One million children receive malaria vaccine 

•Inadequate emergency preparedness caused COVID-19 disruptions, says NACA DG

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that it spent a total of $1.7 billion on essential supplies to the COVID-19 response across the globe.

In statement issued in Geneva, yesterday, WHO stated that between 2020 and 2021, it led the largest-ever global response for a health crisis, working with 1600 technical and operational partners, and helped galvanise the biggest, fastest and most complex vaccination drive in history.

WHO also said its recommendation of widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine, RTSS, has been delivered to over one million children.  Furthermore, the global health body stated that countries across the globe have recorded tremendous achievement in healthcare despite COVID-19 pandemic.

In what seemed like a stock-taking and evaluation of its response to the global health emergency, WHO said its Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator partnership delivered over one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by January 2022.

The statement signed by the WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that its global rollout of crucial health materials included, “nearly $500 million worth of personal protective equipment; $187 million in oxygen supplies, $4.8 million in treatments and 110 million diagnostic tests.

“The organisation spent $1.7 billion on essential supplies to the COVID-19 response. Even as WHO has responded to the most severe global health crisis in a century, we have continued to support our Member States in addressing many other threats to health, despite squeezed budgets and disrupted services.

“As the world continues to respond to and recover from the pandemic in the years ahead, WHO’s priority is to invest even more resources for our work in countries, where it matters most,” he continued.

“Ensuring WHO has sustainable, predictable and flexible financing is essential for fulfilling our mission to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable,” he said.

The statement issued ahead of the World Health Assembly next week, gave details such as accomplishments in the delivery of more than 1.4 billion vaccine doses via the COVAX facility, the recommendation for broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine and WHO’s response to some 87 health emergencies, including COVID-19.

WHO however stated that much remained to be done for the world to get on track for its target of each country vaccinating 70 per cent of its population by July 2022.  

The results report revealed noteworthy achievements beyond the pandemic.

It stated that mandatory policies prohibiting the use of trans fatty acids (a hazardous food compound linked to cardiovascular disease), are in effect for 3.2 billion people in 58 countries.

Meanwhile, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has attributed most of the disruptions in the healthcare delivery targets to the country’s inadequate emergency preparedness and response to COVID-19 pandemic.

It said the situation slightly impacted on the country’s 2030 target to achieve zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-Related deaths.

Speaking on yesterday, at the 6th National Council on AIDS with the theme: “Innovative Approaches towards HIV Epidemic Control and Programme Sustainability at State Level,” the Director General of NACA, Dr.Gambo  Aliyu said notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19, Nigeria still recorded its largest growth in HIV treatment numbers, initiating close to 300,000 people living with HIV on treatment in 2020.

“Looking back two years ago since the 5th NCA which held in 2019, I realise how COVID-19 impacted on the economy and especially the community of people living with HIV/AIDS; this was due to inadequate emergency preparedness and response to COVID-19, long lockdown period that led to hunger and malnutrition, patients who were unable to access drugs, poor distribution of drugs to health facilities and health post, vulnerability of health workers to contract COVID-19 thereby impeding on service delivery.

“This slightly impacted on our 2030 target to achieve zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” he said.

Aliyu said that even in the face of COVID-19, Nigeria recorded its largest growth in HIV treatment numbers in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, initiating close to 300,000 people living with HIV on treatment in 2020, and strengthening existing HIV/AIDS coordination platforms and community structures to support the COVID-19 response.

Speaking on the outcome of the council’s deliberations, Aliyu said the meeting proposed important policy changes hinged on the new thinking of sustainability.

“It is my hope that these policies, in relation to the different sub-themes, will ensure Nigeria moves towards achieving HIV epidemic control and programme sustainability in communities at the state level in line with global targets.

He said some programme managers of State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) engaged as Epidemiology officers, distribution of ART drugs were using drones in some states in order minimise death rate within the HIV/AIDS communities.

He also said NACA’s toll line was deployed for continuous sensitisation on proper hygiene, social distancing and answering frequent questions from the public.  

Aliyu further said the country was moving towards HIV epidemic control and programme sustainability which he said was in line with global agenda and built on innovative approaches to exceed the 95:95:95 targets.

“We can all agree that achieving HIV epidemic control in Nigeria requires innovative thinking, good planning, and domestic resourcing for sustainability

The National Council on AIDS  is a forum for discussions on the way forward in the HIV and AIDS response.

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