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Updated: 6 hours 34 min ago

WHO transfers critical patients out of Nasser Medical Complex, fears for safety of remaining patients

Tue, 02/20/2024 - 16:48
WHO led two life-saving missions to transfer 32 critical patients, including two children, from Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza on 18 and 19 February, amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions.

Children’s lives threatened by rising malnutrition in the Gaza Strip

Mon, 02/19/2024 - 20:06

A steep rise in malnutrition among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in the Gaza strip poses grave threats to their health, according to a comprehensive new analysis released by the Global Nutrition Cluster.

As the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip enters its 20th week, food and safe water have become incredibly scarce and diseases are rife, compromising women and children’s nutrition and immunity and resulting in a surge of acute malnutrition.

The report “Nutrition Vulnerability and Situation Analysis - Gaza” – finds that the situation is particularly extreme in the Northern Gaza Strip, which has been almost completely cut off from aid for weeks. Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centres in the north found that 15.6 per cent – or 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age – are acutely malnourished. Of these, almost 3 per cent suffer from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, which puts young children at highest risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment. As the data were collected in January, the situation is likely to be even graver today.

Similar screenings in the Southern Gaza Strip, in Rafah, where aid has been more available, found 5 per cent of children under 2 years are acutely malnourished. This is clear evidence that access to humanitarian aid is needed and can help prevent the worst outcomes. It also reinforces agencies’ calls to protect Rafah from the threat of intensified military operations.

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations, Ted Chaiban. “We’ve been warning for weeks that the Gaza Strip is on the brink of a nutrition crisis. If the conflict doesn’t end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have potential intergenerational consequences.”

Before the recent months’ hostilities, wasting in the Gaza Strip was rare with just 0.8 per cent of children under 5 years of age acutely malnourished. The rate of 15.6 percent of wasting among children under 2 in Northern Gaza suggests a serious and rapid decline. Such a decline in a population’s nutritional status in three months is unprecedented globally.

There is a high risk that malnutrition will continue to rise across the Gaza Strip due to the alarming lack of food, water and health and nutrition services:

  • 90 per cent of children under the age of 2 and 95 per cent of pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty – meaning they have consumed two or less food groups in the previous day – and the food they do have access to is of the lowest nutritional value.
  • 95 per cent of households are limiting meals and portion sizes, with 64 per cent of households eating only one meal a day. 
  • Over 95 per cent of households said they had restricted the amount of food adults received in order to ensure small children had food to eat. 

“The steep rise in malnutrition that we are seeing in Gaza is dangerous and entirely preventable”, said WFP Assistant Executive Director for Programme Operations, Valerie Guarnieri. “Children and women, in particular, need continuous access to healthy foods, clean water and health and nutrition services. For that to happen, we need decisive improvements on security and humanitarian access, and additional entry points for aid to enter Gaza.”

Inadequate safe drinking water, as well as insufficient water for cooking and hygiene purposes, are compounding poor nutrition. On average, households surveyed had access to less than one litre of safe water per person per day. According to humanitarian standards, the minimum amount of safe water needed in an emergency is 3 litres per person per day, while the overall standard is 15 litres per person, which includes sufficient quantities for drinking, washing and cooking.

Hungry, thirsty and weak, more Gazans are falling sick. The report finds at least 90 per cent of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious disease. Seventy per cent had diarrhoea in the past two weeks, a 23-fold increase compared with the 2022 baseline. 

“Hunger and disease are a deadly combination,” said Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. ”Hungry, weakened and deeply traumatised children are more likely to get sick, and children who are sick, especially with diarrhea, cannot absorb nutrients well. It’s dangerous, and tragic, and happening before our eyes.”

Without more humanitarian assistance, the nutritional situation is likely to continue to deteriorate rapidly and at scale across the Gaza Strip. With the majority of health, water and sanitation services severely degraded, it is essential that those that remain functional are protected and reinforced to stem the spread of diseases and stop malnutrition from worsening.

UNICEF, WFP and WHO call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access to urgently deliver multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance throughout the Gaza Strip. This includes nutritious foods, nutrition supplies and essential services for malnourished and at-risk children and women to safely access health and nutrition care and treatment services, particularly infants and young children under 5. Hospitals and health workers must be protected from attack so they can safely provide critical treatment and care. An immediate humanitarian ceasefire continues to provide the best chance to save lives and end suffering.


Note to the editor

Due to security and access challenges throughout the Gaza Strip, it is nearly impossible to collect anthropometric data to measure rates of acute malnutrition. Collection of anthropometric data (MUAC) was only possible in two areas (North Gaza and Rafah) among children under 2 years of age. The report therefore used an innovative method of analysis to support this data and determine that acute malnutrition is rising throughout the Gaza Strip. This method analyzed data on the drivers of malnutrition – lack of food, rates of disease, lack of access to clean water and lack of available health services – which was collected through telephone and SMS questionnaires. From analyzing the key causes, we can conclude that acute malnutrition is rising throughout Gaza at speed.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and our work for children, visit www.unicef.org

About WFP

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

About WHO

Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations – leading the world’s response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. 

Member States consider proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations with discussions on equity to continue

Mon, 02/19/2024 - 11:12
WHO Member States have continued discussions on proposals to amend the International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005), during which the importance of their work to future global security was highlighted.

Digital payments to health workers boost retention, motivation, and impact

Fri, 02/09/2024 - 13:34

An immunization worker gets set up to receive her wages on her mobile wallet in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: WHO

Campaigns in Africa to stop polio and other diseases have a more stable, better-motivated workforce thanks to WHO’s collaboration with countries and partners to pay frontline health workers through their mobile phones instead of in cash.

“Over 80 percent of workers are saying they prefer the digital payments,” said Ahmed Hamani Djibo, head of WHO’s Digital Finance Team.

WHO has been leading among international organizations in moving away from the unwieldy, less-secure practice of disbursing salaries in cash. Over the past few years, the Organization launched its Digital Finance Team and joined the Better Than Cash Alliance, an 80-member United Nations partnership with a mandate to develop the digitization of payments and expand financial inclusion – activities that support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Since it was established in 2020, WHO’s Digital Finance Team has designed and implemented digital payment solutions in 24 countries in Africa, including, last year, in Benin, Botswana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Togo and Zimbabwe.

“WHO has successfully digitized payments for more than two million health workers across Africa,” said Tidhar Wald, Managing Director, a.i., at the Better Than Cash Alliance. “With these inspiring results, WHO is taking a clear leadership role in accelerating the digital transformation in the provision of health outcomes globally.”

A polio immunization team on the job in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: WHO

“A really big difference in speed”

Workers surveyed in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Tanzania said they appreciated the security of not carrying cash, the convenience of no longer having to travel to a disbursement site to receive their wages, and above all, the speed of payment – as short as half an hour after finishing work compared to waits of weeks or even months.

The surveys, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, linked timely compensation to better morale and worker retention.

“There is really a big difference in speed,” said Jean-Luc, a health worker interviewed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the end of a polio immunization campaign. “We finished the campaign mop-up yesterday and received a text notification the next evening. I’m going to pay my child’s school fees. Now we can relax.”

Digital payments also save time and money for health campaign organizers, including the burden and expense of transporting large sums of cash and completing documentation.

“When you have 300 to 500 volunteers to pay, doing accounts and signing receipts takes a lot of time,” said Saïdi, a polio team leader in DRC.

WHO first used the new digital payments in polio immunization campaigns in Côte d’Ivoire. Although outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio were on the rise, vaccination campaigns were having trouble getting off the ground. In the first quarter of 2020, almost half the polio campaigns in WHO’s African Region were postponed, saw workers drop out, or suffered other detrimental effects stemming from delays in cash disbursements.

As WHO and partners worked to develop the nuts-and-bolts aspects of a digital payment ecosystem (registering workers into a database, verifying their profiles with the mobile network operator and more) the benefits of a cashless approach became more apparent.

"There is substantial evidence that digitizing payments can support people, especially women, to gain access to financial services and increase control over their earnings,” said Maria May, Senior Program Officer, Inclusive Financial Systems, at the Gates Foundation. “Over the past four years, the World Health Organization has utilized the growing presence of mobile money across Africa to ensure that the courageous frontline vaccinators in polio outbreak campaigns are paid completely, quickly, and securely.”

Alain Labrique, director of WHO’s Department of Digital Health and Innovation, said that “digital payments are one of the key pillars of Digital Health Public Infrastructure currently strongly encouraged within WHO’s guidance to member-states on Digital Transformation.” WHO views digital payments as a foundation for many more digital development activities, together with Data Exchange and Digital ID Infrastructure. He added “we are delighted to work with partners in the digital space and add our voice to this celebration of WHO's joining the Better Than Cash Alliance”.

Putting survivors at the forefront of the global movement to end female genital mutilation

Tue, 02/06/2024 - 15:19

Joint Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, OHCHR High Commissioner Volker Türk, UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

Today, on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, we reaffirm our dedication to the girls and women who have been subjected to this grave violation of human rights. Every survivor's voice is a call to action, and every choice they make in reclaiming their lives contributes to the global movement to end this harmful practice. 

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. This year, nearly 4.4 million girls will be at risk of it. This equates to more than 12 000 cases every day.

In keeping with the commitments outlined in the Beijing Declaration and platform for action, those agreed during the 25th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25), Generation Equality, and other normative frameworks including The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and their general recommendations, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (target 5.3), we reiterate our commitment to prevent and respond to female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation is a violation of women’s and girls’ rights, one that endangers their physical and mental health and limits their potential to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. It increases their risk of serious pain, bleeding and infections and the likelihood of other health complications later in life, including risks during childbirth, which can imperil the lives of their newborns.

That is why, in our pursuit of a world free of discrimination and practices that harm girls and women, it is imperative that we turn our attention to the voices that matter most – the voices of survivors.

We must amplify the voices of survivors to raise awareness and inspire collective action, and promote their power and autonomy by ensuring they have an active role in prevention and response interventions.

Survivors have first-hand knowledge of the challenges and the tools needed to eliminate the practice. It is crucial that we invest in survivor-led movements, especially at the grassroots level, by dedicating resources that will advance their efforts. 

We also must ensure that comprehensive and culturally sensitive services are available and accessible. This includes strengthening the provision of health care and social and legal services to support survivors.

UNFPA and UNICEF, as the lead agencies of the Global Joint Progamme on Eliminating FGM, OHCHR, UN Women, WHO, and other United Nations entities remain steadfast in partnering with survivors as community champions and leaders, while ensuring their voices and perspectives inform programmes to prevent and respond to FGM. Indeed, investing in movement-building and promoting girls’ and women’s agency is at the core of the UN Joint Programme on Eliminating FGM.

We celebrate progress that has been achieved: The practice of FGM has been declining over the last three decades, and in the 31 countries with nationally representative prevalence data, around 1 in 3 girls aged 15 to 19 today have undergone the practice versus 1 in 2 in the 1990s.

As of last year, the Joint Programme supported more than 11 000 organizations, of which 83 per cent were grassroots organizations partnering with coalitions and survivor-led movements, advocating for changes in policies and laws, and championing changes to social and gender norms.

Yet there is an urgent need for even more targeted, coordinated and sustained efforts if we are to achieve our common goal of ending female genital mutilation by 2030. Together, led by survivors, we can consign this harmful practice to history, once and for all.




Global cancer burden growing, amidst mounting need for services

Thu, 02/01/2024 - 10:56
Ahead of World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), released the latest estimates of the global burden of cancer.

WHO introduces the Health Technology Access Pool

Wed, 01/31/2024 - 13:28
WHO announces the Health Technology Access Pool (HTAP) as the successor to the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

Statement by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee: We cannot abandon the people of Gaza

Wed, 01/31/2024 - 10:14
The world cannot abandon the people of Gaza.

WHO awards countries for progress in eliminating industrially produced trans fats for first time

Mon, 01/29/2024 - 12:02
WHO has awarded its first-ever certificates validating progress in eliminating industrially produced trans fatty-acids to five countries. Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand have each demonstrated they have a best practice policy for industrially produced trans-fatty acids (iTFA) elimination in effect, supported by adequate monitoring and enforcement systems.

WHO and partners bring fuel to Al-Shifa, as remaining hospitals in Gaza face growing threats

Tue, 01/23/2024 - 23:16
WHO and partners completed another high-risk mission on Monday to resupply fuel to the Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people remain cut off from aid.

WHO Executive Board appoints Regional Directors for Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific regions

Tue, 01/23/2024 - 13:48
Dr Hanan Hassan Balkhy will serve as Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ms Saima Wazed will serve as Regional Director for South-East Asia, and Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala will serve as Regional Director for the Western Pacific, all starting on 1 February 2024.

WHO releases AI ethics and governance guidance for large multi-modal models

Thu, 01/18/2024 - 14:10
WHO new guidance on the ethics and governance of large multi-modal models (LMMs) – a type of fast growing generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology with applications across health care.

Tobacco use declines despite tobacco industry efforts to jeopardize progress

Mon, 01/15/2024 - 18:23
Trends in 2022 show a continued decline in tobacco use rates globally. With about 1 in 5 adults worldwide consuming tobacco compared to 1 in 3 in 2000. WHO urges countries to continue putting in place tobacco control policies and continue to fight against tobacco industry interference.

WHO launches appeal for US$ 1.5 billion for key emergencies in 2024

Mon, 01/15/2024 - 13:30
WHO today launched an appeal to protect the health of the most vulnerable populations in 41 emergencies around the globe in 2024. The appeal covers the emergencies that demand the highest level of response from WHO, with the aim to reach over 87 million people.

Preventing famine and deadly disease outbreak in Gaza requires faster, safer aid access and more supply routes

Mon, 01/15/2024 - 11:57
As the risk of famine grows, and more people are exposed to deadly disease outbreaks, a fundamental step change in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza is urgently needed, United Nations agencies warned today.

WHO certifies Cabo Verde as malaria-free, marking a historic milestone in the fight against malaria

Fri, 01/12/2024 - 10:11
The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Cabo Verde as a malaria-free country, marking a significant achievement in global health. With this announcement, Cabo Verde joins the ranks of 43 countries and 1 territory that WHO has awarded this certification.

WHO teams deliver supplies to hospitals in Northern and Southern Gaza

Wed, 12/27/2023 - 18:28
World Health Organization teams have undertaken high-risk missions to deliver supplies, with partners, to hospitals in Northern and Southern Gaza witnessing intense hostilities in their vicinity, high patient loads and overcrowding caused by people displaced by the conflict seeking refuge.

Lethal combination of hunger and disease to lead to more deaths in Gaza

Thu, 12/21/2023 - 16:47
Hunger is ravaging Gaza, and this is expected to increase illness across the Strip, most acutely among children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and older people. In new estimates released today, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) global partnership, which includes WHO, said Gaza is facing “catastrophic levels of food insecurity,” with the risk of famine “increasing each day.”

WHO prequalifies a second malaria vaccine, a significant milestone in prevention of the disease

Wed, 12/20/2023 - 18:52
WHO has added the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine to the list of prequalified vaccines. The prequalification means larger access to vaccines as a key tool to prevent malaria in children with it being a prerequisite for vaccine procurement by UNICEF and funding support for deployment by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Addressing Global Health Challenges: Irish Taoiseach Varadkar and WHO Director-General in Dublin Talks

Tue, 12/19/2023 - 15:30

Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar welcomed Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, to Dublin today, to discuss strengthening the partnership between Ireland and the WHO across a range of global and domestic health areas. Dr Tedros also met with Michael Higgins, the President of Ireland.

The meetings underscores Ireland's commitment to actively address pressing health issues on both national and global fronts. The discussions delved into strategies for tackling health emergencies, enhancing healthcare infrastructure, and fostering collaborative research initiatives. The leaders also discussed the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and agreed on the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated in no uncertain terms how important the World Health Organization is, and how central a role it plays in promoting and securing health and well-being for all, on a global scale. This visit is an important opportunity to affirm and strengthen Ireland’s partnership with the WHO.”

The leaders discussed the importance of learning from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic to be prepared for any future outbreaks. They agreed on the importance of moving forward with the instrument on pandemic preparedness to be ready for such events. They also discussed the vital need for increased medical supplies to be allowed into humanitarian settings and the disproportionate impact that violence is having on children and women. This year, Ireland announced it will invest around €10 million in supporting the work of the WHO, with funding targeted to support healthcare in emergency settings and programmes aimed at tackling child malnutrition.

“Ireland plays a powerful role in advocating for peace and equity in health globally, and has provided vital assistance to WHO’s work around the world” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

In the context of the funding, the Irish, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Micheál Martin T.D. commented saying it is: “recognising the importance public health measures globally, and in the light of increasing health needs arising from conflict and crisis, that Ireland is significantly increasing its support for the WHO.”