Africa: WHO Director-General’s Opening Remarks At the Member State Briefing On Covid-19 – 27 August 2020


Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for joining us for this week’s Member State briefing.

As we have a full schedule today, my remarks will be brief.

Before I get into today’s briefing, I’d like to start with some wonderful news: this Tuesday, we announced the certification of the eradication of wild poliovirus in Africa.

This extraordinary achievement has only been possible because of the determination of the people and governments of Africa, and the many international partners who played such vital roles in working with WHO on this achievement.

In particular I’d like to acknowledge the many Member State donors who invested in making this possible, including Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, as well as the European Union.

Since 1996, almost 9 billion polio vaccines have been delivered in Africa, up to 1.8 million cases of wild polio have been averted, and up to 180,000 lives have been saved

The investments we have all made have not only helped to end polio. They have also helped to strengthen health systems, providing vital infrastructure and health workers to respond to other crises including Ebola and COVID-19.

The end of wild poliovirus in Africa is a momentous achievement that demonstrates what is possible when we come together in a spirit of solidarity.

That same spirit of solidarity between nations is essential to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming back the Minister of Health of Nicaragua, Her Excellency Dr Martha Reyes Alvarez, to discuss her country’s experience with regards to sentinel surveillance of respiratory diseases.

Next will be a presentation on the epidemiological situation from my colleague Dr Babatunde Olowokure, WHO’s Chief of Information Systems and Analytics.

This will be followed by an update on the Review Committee on the functioning of the International Health Regulations during COVID-19, that will be given by another colleague of mine, Dr Jaouad Mahjour, the Assistant Director-General for Emergency Preparedness.

The Review Committee has been established in accordance with WHA Resolution 73.1 and the relevant provisions of the IHR.