WHO has made an official request to China for detailed information on an increase in respiratory illnesses and reported clusters of pneumonia in children.
At a press conference on 13 November 2023, Chinese authorities from the National Health Commission reported an increase in incidence of respiratory diseases in China. Chinese authorities attributed this increase to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the circulation of known pathogens such as influenza, mycoplasma pneumoniae (a common bacterial infection which typically affects younger children), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Authorities stressed the need for enhanced disease surveillance in healthcare facilities and community settings, as well as strengthening the capacity of the health system to manage patients.
On 21 November, media and ProMED reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. It is unclear if these are associated with the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities, or separate events.
On 22 November, WHO requested additional epidemiologic and clinical information, as well as laboratory results from these reported clusters among children, through the International Health Regulations mechanism. We have also requested further information about recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens including influenza, SARS-CoV-2, RSV and mycoplasma pneumoniae, and the current burden on health care systems. WHO is also in contact with clinicians and scientists through our existing technical partnerships and networks in China.
Since mid-October, northern China has reported an increase in influenza-like illness compared to the same period in the previous three years. China has systems in place to capture information on trends in influenza, influenza-like illnesses, RSV and SARS-CoV-2, and reports to platforms such as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.
While WHO seeks this additional information, we recommend that people in China follow measures to reduce the risk of respiratory illness, which include recommended vaccination; keeping distance from people who are ill; staying home when ill; getting tested and medical care as needed; wearing masks as appropriate; ensuring good ventilation; and regular hand-washing.
WHO will continue to provide updates.
Shipments to African countries herald final steps toward broader vaccination against malaria: Gavi, WHO and UNICEF
- More than 330 000 doses of WHO-recommended RTS,S malaria vaccine arrived last night in Cameroon – a historic step towards broader vaccination against one of the deadliest diseases for African children
- Malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounted for approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of related deaths in 2021
- With several African countries now finalizing roll-out plans, an additional 1.7 million doses are set for delivery to Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks
- These shipments signal that malaria vaccination is moving out of its pilot phase, and lay the groundwork for countries to begin vaccinations through Gavi-supported routine immunization programmes in Q1 2024
Shipments of the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccine, RTS,S, have begun with 331 200 doses landing last night in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The delivery is the first to a country not previously involved in the malaria vaccine pilot programme and signals that scale-up of vaccination against malaria across the highest-risk areas on the African continent will begin shortly.
Nearly every minute, a child under five dies of malaria. In 2021, there were 247 million malaria cases globally, which led to 619 000 deaths. Of these deaths, 77 per cent were children under 5 years of age, mostly in Africa. Malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounts for approximately 95% of global malaria cases and 96% of related deaths in 2021.
A further 1.7 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine are expected to arrive in Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone in the coming weeks, with additional African countries set to receive doses in the months ahead. This reflects the fact that several countries are now in the final stage of preparations for malaria vaccine introduction into routine immunisation programmes, which should see first doses administered in Q1 2024.
Comprehensive preparations are needed to introduce any new vaccine into essential immunisation programmes – such as training of healthcare workers, investing in infrastructure, technical capacity, vaccine storage, community engagement and demand, and sequencing and integrating rollout alongside the delivery of other vaccines and health interventions. Delivering the malaria vaccine has the added challenge of a four-dose schedule which requires careful planning to effectively deliver.
Since 2019, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been administering the vaccine in a schedule of 4 doses from around 5 months of age in selected districts as part of the pilot programme, known as the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP). More than 2 million children have been reached with the malaria vaccine in the three African countries through MVIP – resulting in a remarkable 13% drop in all-cause mortality in children age-eligible to receive the vaccine, and substantial reductions in severe malaria illness and hospitalizations. Other key findings from the pilot programme show that vaccine uptake is high, with no reduction in use of other malaria prevention measures or uptake of other vaccines. MVIP is coordinated by WHO in collaboration with PATH, UNICEF and other partners, and funded by Gavi, the Global Fund, and UNITAID, with donated doses from GSK, the manufacturer of the RTS,S vaccine.
The data from the pilot have shown the impact and safety of the RTS,S vaccine and provided important evidence on vaccine acceptability and uptake that helped inform the recent WHO recommendation of a second malaria vaccine – R21, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). Results of a phase 3 trial for R21 showed that the vaccine has a good safety profile in the clinical trial setting and reduces malaria in children. It is expected that, like RTS,S, when R21 is implemented it will have similar high public health impact. The choice of which vaccine to be used in a country should be based on programmatic characteristics, vaccine supply, and affordability.
The R21 vaccine is currently under review by WHO for prequalification. The availability of two malaria vaccines is expected to increase supply to meet the high demand from African countries and result in sufficient vaccine doses to benefit all children living in areas where malaria is a public health risk. In preparation for scaled-up vaccination, Gavi, WHO, UNICEF and partners are working with countries that have expressed interest and/or have confirmed rollout plans on the next steps.
These developments mean that broad implementation of malaria vaccination in endemic regions has the potential to be a gamechanger for malaria control efforts, and could save tens of thousands of lives each year. However, malaria vaccines are not a standalone solution. They should be introduced in the context of the WHO-recommended package of malaria control measures which include insecticide-treated nets, indoor residual spraying, intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women, antimalarials, effective case management, and treatment, all of which have helped to reduce malaria-related deaths since 2000. Importantly, the MVIP showed that delivering vaccines alongside non-vaccine interventions can reinforce the uptake of other vaccines and the use of insecticide treated nets, and overall boost access to malaria prevention measures.
“The world needs good news – and this a good news story,” said David Marlow, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Gavi is proud that our Alliance of stakeholders, with African countries at the forefront, took the decision to invest in the malaria vaccine as a public health priority, and that this support has played a part in the availability of a new tool that can save the lives of thousands of children each year. We are excited to rollout this historic vaccine through Gavi programmes and work with partners to ensure it is delivered alongside other vital measures.”
“This could be a real gamechanger in our fight against malaria,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Introducing vaccines is like adding a star player to the pitch. With this long-anticipated step, spearheaded by African leaders, we are entering a new era in immunization and malaria control, hopefully saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children every year.”
“This is another breakthrough moment for malaria vaccines and malaria control, and a ray of light in a dark time for so many vulnerable children in the world. The delivery of malaria vaccines to new countries across Africa will offer life-saving protection to millions of children at risk of malaria,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But we must not stop here. Together, we must find the will and the resources to bring malaria vaccines to scale, so more children can live longer, healthier lives.”
“This is a significant advancement towards scaling up malaria vaccination in the region. The vaccine, which protects children from the severe forms of the disease, is a vital addition to the existing set of malaria prevention tools and will help bolster our efforts to reverse the rising trend in cases and further reduce deaths,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Quotes from countries and stakeholders
"The arrival of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine in Burkina Faso marks a historic milestone in our efforts to combat malaria, which remains a major public health threat. Malaria is in fact the primary cause for consultations, hospitalization and death in our health facilities. Children under 5 pay the heaviest price. We are hopeful that the introduction of this vaccine into routine immunisation for children aged 0 to 23 months will have the potential to reduce the burden of this disease and save many lives," said Dr Robert Lucien Jean-Claude Kargougou, Burkina Faso's Minister of Health and Public Hygiene.
"We are committed to ensuring that the vaccine reaches eligible children, and we encourage all parents to take advantage of this life-saving intervention." "The government remains committed to strengthening other malaria prevention and control measures". “The arrival of the vaccines marks a historic step in our efforts to control malaria, which remains a major public health threat in the country. We’re grateful for the support of our partners with whom we’re committed to working to ensure that the vaccines reach the children and protect them from this deadly disease,” said Hon Dr Malachie Manaouda, Minister of Public Health of Cameroon. “As we vaccinate children, the government also remains committed to strengthening other prevention and control measures so that we can lower the huge burden of malaria.”
"The introduction of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine in Liberia marks a significant milestone in our efforts to combat malaria which is the leading cause of infant and under five mortality. This vaccine has the potential to save many lives and reduce the burden of this disease on our population,” said Hon Dr Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Health of Liberia. “We are committed to ensuring that the vaccine reaches those who need it the most, and we encourage all parents of eligible children to take advantage of this life-saving intervention."
“Today’s announcement is welcome news given that malaria remains a primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Using this vaccine, appropriately prioritized in the context of existing tools, could help prevent malaria and save tens of thousands of young lives each year.”
“I am thrilled that the RTS,S vaccine, which is the result of so many years of work by PATH, GSK, and African partners, has arrived in Cameroon and will soon reach even more children at risk of malaria,” said Nikolaj Gilbert, President and CEO of PATH. “All of us at PATH appreciate the efforts by Gavi, UNICEF, and WHO to accelerate access to this life-saving vaccine.”
“As the scale up of the world’s first malaria vaccine begins, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative congratulates the Gavi Secretariat and Ministries of Health throughout Africa,” said Dr David Walton, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator. “This moment has been decades in the making and the U.S. has supported malaria vaccine development for decades. To maximize the benefit of this lifesaving tool, we will enthusiastically continue our partnerships with Ministries of Health and national, regional, and global partners to achieve a world in which no child dies from a mosquito bite.”
Notes to editors
Please explore links below for photos and multimedia content related to malaria vaccines, including photos and footage of the vaccines on the move from the GSK factory, and arriving in Cameroon. Additional content will continue to be added in the coming days and weeks.
- Gavi https://media.gavi.org/?c=1923733&k=9e5596b28b
- UNICEF https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AM408LMATVA
- WHO photos https://photos.hq.who.int/galleries/1596/rtsss-vaccines-for-press-release and video https://we.tl/t-K5IOxBgv6m
For further information about these shipments, please see “Frequently Asked Questions".
About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate more than half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organisations that fund Gavi’s work here.
Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 1 billion children – and prevented more than 17.3 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 78 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems and outbreak response as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot. The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.
Learn more at www.gavi.org
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunization here.
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. www.who.int
With heavy hearts, WHO announces the death of one of our staff in Gaza, in the occupied Palestinian territory. Dima Abdullatif Mohammed Alhaj, 29 years old, had been with WHO since December 2019. She worked as a patient administrator at the Limb Reconstruction Centre, a critical part of the WHO Trauma and Emergency Team.
Dima died today when her parents’ house in southern Gaza—where she had evacuated to from Gaza City—was bombed. She was tragically killed alongside her husband, their six-month old baby boy, and her two brothers. Reportedly, over 50 family and community members sheltering in the same house also died.
Dima had a bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Earth Sciences from the Islamic University of Gaza, and continued to study and work on environmental issues and health. She was a master’s student at Glasgow University, Scotland, UK, as part of the Erasmus exchange program from 2018-2019.
On Women’s Day 2022, Dima said in a WHO social media post that she was proud of her work because “it contributes to giving people hope and a new lease on life.”
Dr Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative in the occupied Palestinian territory said “she was a wonderful person with a radiant smile, cheerful, positive, respectful. She was a true team player. Her work was crucial, and she had been requested to take on even more responsibilities to support the Gaza suboffice and team. This is such a painful loss for all of us. We share our deepest condolences with her mother and father (a long-serving medical specialist in Gaza), her family, and her many friends.”
The humanitarian community and UN family have lost other members since 7 October. MSF today lost two doctors. UNRWA has lost 108 colleagues. These are not just numbers, but people who were working so that others could have a better life.
The death of Dima and her family is another example of the senseless loss in this conflict. Civilians have died in their homes, at their workplaces, while evacuating, while sheltering in schools, while being cared for in hospitals.
When will it stop?
We plead again with all those who hold in their hands the power to end this conflict to do so.
All of the WHO stands alongside Dima’s family and colleagues in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, and across the organization to mourn her loss.
A second WHO-led joint UN mission, working in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, earlier today evacuated 31 babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, to a hospital in southern Gaza. The severely ill babies were transported in 6 ambulances supplied and staffed by the Palestine Red Crescent. Other mission members included UN Mine Action, UNICEF and UNRWA. The mission was once again assessed as high-risk, due to the active combat taking place in close proximity to the hospital.
These premature and low birthweight babies had earlier been moved from the neonatal unit in Al-Shifa to a safer area in the hospital, due to lack of electricity to run their life support, and security risks in the hospital. Yesterday and last night, two babies died before the evacuation could take place. (Note, there were 33 babies under care yesterday, according to a Ministry of Health update.)
The babies were successfully transported to the neonatal intensive care unit at Al-Helal Al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza, where they are being assessed and stabilized. Doctors there say all the babies are fighting serious infections due to lack of medical supplies and impossibility to continue infection control measures in Al-Shifa Hospital. Eleven are in critical condition.
Sadly, none of the infants were accompanied by family members, as the Ministry of Health has only limited information, and is not currently able to find close family members. Six health workers and 10 of their family members, who had been sheltering at the hospital, were also evacuated.
The evacuation, which was requested by health workers and patients during the joint mission yesterday, became necessary as Al-Shifa Hospital is no longer able to function due to a lack of clean water, fuel, medical supplies, food, other essential items and the intense hostilities. WHO remains deeply concerned about the safety and health needs of patients and health workers who remain at Al-Shifa Hospital, and in the few partially functional hospitals in the north that face imminent closure.
Al-Shifa Hospital, previously the largest and most advanced referral hospital in Gaza, together with other hospitals, must be fully restored to provide urgently needed health services in Gaza.
Today’s mission was led by senior WHO staff, including a medical specialist and a doctor, and representatives from UNICEF, UNMAS and UNRWA as noted above. It included medical staff from the Palestine Red Crescent Society, along with their ambulances. WHO is grateful for their partnership, and the support of the rest of the UN, working together as One UN.
The complex and high-risk operation, occurring in an active conflict zone, follows an assessment mission yesterday, 18 November, which included public health experts, logistics specialists, and security staff from OCHA, UNDSS, UNMAS/UNOPS, UNRWA and WHO. Today’s mission was deconflicted with the Israel Defense Forces and with the defacto authorities.
There remain over 250 patients and 20 health workers at Al-Shifa, who all request immediate evacuation. Planning is ongoing to evacuate the remaining patients, their families and the health-care workers. Given the complex security and logistics constraints, these evacuations will take several days to complete. Priority will be given to the 22 dialysis patients and 50 patients with spinal injuries. WHO reaffirms its respect for the dedication, professionalism, humanity and courage of the health staff who have continued to care for their patients under unimaginably difficult conditions.
WHO reiterates its plea for collective efforts to bring an end to the hostilities and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian access to all of those in need, the unconditional release of all hostages—many of whom have serious medical needs—and the cessation of attacks on health care and other vital infrastructure.
Earlier today, a joint UN humanitarian assessment team led by WHO accessed Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza to assess the situation on the ground, conduct a rapid situational analysis, assess medical priorities and establish logistics options for further missions. The team included public health experts, logistics officers and security staff from OCHA, UNDSS, UNMAS/UNOPS, UNRWA and WHO.
The mission was deconflicted with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to ensure safe passage along the agreed route. However, this was a high-risk operation in an active conflict zone, with heavy fighting ongoing in close proximity to the hospital.
Earlier in the day, the IDF had issued evacuation orders to the remaining 2500 internally displaced people who had been seeking refuge on the hospital grounds. They, along with a number of mobile patients and hospital staff, had already vacated the facility by the time of the team's arrival.
Due to time limits associated with the security situation, the team was able to spend only one hour inside the hospital, which they described as a “death zone,” and the situation as “desperate.” Signs of shelling and gunfire were evident. The team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and was told more than 80 people were buried there.
Lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food and other essential aid over the last 6 weeks have caused Al-Shifa Hospital – once the largest, most advanced and best equipped referral hospital in Gaza – to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility. The team observed that due to the security situation, it has been impossible for the staff to carry out effective waste management in the hospital. Corridors and the hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection. Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation. Al-Shifa Hospital can no longer admit patients, with the injured and sick now being directed to the seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital.
There are 25 health workers and 291 patients remaining in Al-Shifa, with several patient deaths having occurred over the previous 2 to 3 days due to the shutting down of medical services. Patients include 32 babies in extremely critical condition, 2 people in intensive care without ventilation, and 22 dialysis patients whose access to life-saving treatment has been severely compromised. The vast majority of patients are victims of war trauma, including many with complex fractures and amputations, head injuries, burns, chest and abdominal trauma, and 29 patients with serious spinal injuries who are unable to move without medical assistance. Many trauma patients have severely infected wounds due to lack of infection control measures in the hospital and unavailability of antibiotics.
Given the current state of the hospital, which is no longer operational or admitting new patients, the team was requested to evacuate health workers and patients to other facilities. WHO and partners are urgently developing plans for the immediate evacuation of the remaining patients, staff and their families. Over the next 24–72 hours, pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict, additional missions are being arranged to urgently transport patients from Al-Shifa to Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital in the south of Gaza. However, these hospitals are already working beyond capacity, and new referrals from Al-Shifa Hospital will further strain overburdened health staff and resources.
WHO is deeply concerned about the safety and health needs of patients, health workers and internally displaced people sheltering at the few remaining partially functional hospitals in the north, which are facing the risk of closure due to a lack of fuel, water, medical supplies and food, and the intense hostilities. Immediate efforts must be made to restore the functionality of Al-Shifa and all other hospitals to provide urgently needed health services in Gaza.
WHO reiterates its plea for collective efforts to bring an end to the hostilities and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian access to all of those in need, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the cessation of attacks on health care and other vital infrastructure. The extreme suffering of the people of Gaza demands that we respond immediately and concretely with humanity and compassion.
World leaders, cervical cancer survivors, advocates, partners, and civil society are coming together today to mark the third Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action. The Initiative, which marked the first time Member States adopted a resolution to eliminate a noncommunicable disease, has continued to gain momentum, and this year's commemoration promises to be a beacon of hope, progress, and renewed commitment from nations around the world.
“In the last three years, we have witnessed significant progress, but women in poorer countries and poor and marginalized women in richer countries still suffer disproportionately from cervical cancer,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “With enhanced strategies to increase access to vaccination, screening and treatment, strong political and financial commitment from countries, and increased support from partners, we can realize our vision for eliminating cervical cancer.”
Governments and communities are leading the way by declaring commitment and developing strategies to eliminate cervical cancer and countries around the world are rallying behind WHO’s call to action on 17 November.
- Australia is on target to be among the first countries in the world to eliminate cervical cancer, which the country anticipates to achieve in the next 10 years.
- In Benin, the First Lady, Her Excellency, Claudine Talon will host an HPV screening campaign.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo will join the day of action for the first time with a march across Kinshasa calling for cervical cancer elimination, organized by the Ministry of Health and women’s associations.
- In Norway, researchers have recently reported finding no cases of cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) in 25-year-olds, the first cohort of women who were offered the vaccine as children through the national vaccination programme.
- Indonesia announced this week a declaration committing to reach the 90-70-90 targets for cervical cancer elimination through the national cervical cancer elimination plan (2023 to 2030).
- Japan is lighting up the country in teal to mark the day, and honour two years of the re-introduction of the HPV vaccine in the country.
- In Singapore, the Alliance for Active Action Against HPV (A4HPV) will host a spin cycling event to help raise awareness.
- In the United Kingdom, England’s National Health Service (NHS) pledged this week to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040.
Strong progress on HPV vaccination
Since the launch of the Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem three years ago, a further 30 countries, including countries with large populations and cervical cancer burden such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria, introduced the HPV vaccine. As of today, 140 countries have introduced HPV vaccine into national immunization programmes.
The global HPV vaccination coverage of girls that received at least one dose of HPV vaccine has increased to 21% in 2022 – exceeding the pre-pandemic levels for the first time. If this rate of progress is maintained the world would be on track to meet the 2030 target to make HPV vaccines available to all girls everywhere.
WHO, in collaboration with GAVI and other partners, has initiated systematic efforts to catch-up vaccinations for girls who missed HPV vaccination as a result of pandemic disruptions and to revitalize HPV vaccination programmes towards reaching the 90% coverage target.
In Nigeria, for example, HPV vaccine was introduced into the routine immunization programme with a single-dose schedule in October 2023. The country aims to vaccinate 7.7 million girls – the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccination in the region.
Weak progress on screening and treatment
Countries have invested to improve access to screening all over the world. This year, together with Unitaid and its implementing partners, Ministries of Health in 14 low- and middle-income countries reached a milestone of screening over a million women.
In most countries, those diagnosed with cervical cancer still need better access to surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and palliative care. Still, only 65% of countries include cervical cancer screening services and 69% include radiotherapy for treatment of cervical cancer in the health benefit packages as part of universal health coverage schemes.
However, pioneering country experiences showcase progress that is being made on the ground:
- El Salvador released new screening targets to achieve 70% coverage by 2030 and to provide access to treatment for 90% of women with cervical disease. The Ministry of Health now offers services in all 75 screening facilities throughout the country. The country also made progress on the treatment of precancerous lesions; and
- Bhutan, which was among the Member States that raised this agenda to the WHO Executive Board in 2019, continues to make remarkable strides in cervical cancer prevention and treatment. The country recently reported that it has screened 90.8% of eligible women for cervical pre-cancer and cancer through its health flagship project, of these, 92% of women with cervical pre-cancer were treated and all women with invasive cancer were managed.
To enhance screening quality, reduce costs and broaden access to health-care services, WHO now endorses HPV testing as the preferred method for cervical cancer screening. This includes support for self-sampling, which makes screening even more convenient. In addition, WHO prequalified a fourth HPV test in June 2023, providing an additional option for countries seeking to implement advanced screening methods to identify patients requiring treatment more effectively.
Notes for editors:
To eliminate cervical cancer, all countries must reach and maintain an incidence rate of below 4 per 100 000 women. Achieving that goal rests on three key pillars and their corresponding targets. The three key pillars are:
- 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15;
- 70% of women screened using a high performance test by the age of 35, and again by the age of 45;
- 90% of women with pre-cancer treated and 90% of women with invasive cancer managed.
Each country should meet the 90–70–90 targets by 2030 to get on the path to eliminate cervical cancer within the next century.
Global measles threat continues to grow as another year passes with millions of children unvaccinated
Mr Ingo Behnel, Ambassador Dr Katharina Stasch, Dr Gesa Miehe-Nordmeyer and Dr Catharina Boehme. ©WHO/Lindsay Mackenzie
In a meeting on 3 November, Germany reaffirmed its support for WHO as the Organization takes on wide-ranging global health challenges and advocated prompt action to establish a pandemic accord – an international agreement that would pave the way for better collaboration on emergencies, science and research.
A German delegation that included Dr Katharina Stasch, UN Ambassador in Geneva; Ingo Behnel, Director-General of European and International Policy Issues at the German Ministry of Health; and Dr Gesa Miehe-Nordmeyer, Director General of the German Chancellery’s Department for Social, Health, Labor Market, Environment and Social Policy, met with WHO representatives including Assistant Director-General Dr Catharina Boehme, Emergencies Programme Executive Director Dr Michael Ryan and Chief Scientist Dr Jeremy Farrar.
During the meeting Germany also reaffirmed its support for flexible, sustainable funding to carry out WHO’s 14th General Programme of Work for 2025-28 (GPW14) towards vital objectives such as withstanding pandemics, responding to health emergencies, and confronting the threats to health posed by climate change and drug-resistant infections.
“Germany is very supportive of WHO, and also supportive of the pandemic agreement,” Dr Miehe-Nordmeyer said, adding that Member States have a clear window of opportunity to establish the pandemic agreement in time for the World Health Assembly next May.
Dr Ryan praised Germany for having been a “huge supporter of global health security over many years,” cited the country’s voluntary contributions to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, its support during the COVID-19 pandemic for technology, science, innovation and operations, and for its hosting of the World Health Summit, a leading strategic forum for global health advocacy.
Germany is the largest donor to the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE), which enables WHO to respond without delay to health emergencies worldwide.
Dr Ryan called the Germany-supported WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin “a physical manifestation of Germany’s commitment” to global health security. The Hub was launched in 2021 to provide the world with better data and analytics to detect and respond to health emergencies.
At the meeting Germany and WHO signed funding agreements to support emergency responses in Libya (€1 million) and Yemen (€3 million).
An afternoon session with WHO Chief Scientist Jeremy Farrar touched on embedding science and research action across the Organization, helping countries develop ecosystems for health research and science, and supporting the international community with a digitalization agenda.
Dr Farrar also discussed WHO’s aim to add WHO collaborating centres, particularly in the Global South, and branch out into new research areas. WHO has 847 collaborating centers in more than 80 countries.
“We’d like to see collaborating centres on digital, on A.I., on trust, or on horizon scanning for the future of science,” Dr Farrar said. “We would like to work more closely with the collaborating centres and for them to see themselves very much as a part of WHO,” Dr Farrar said.
UNRWA has facilitated the delivery of WHO’s much needed emergency medical supplies and medicines to Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, north of the Gaza Strip, despite huge risks to our staff and health partners due to the relentless bombardments in Gaza.
This is only the second delivery of lifesaving supplies to the hospital since the escalation of hostilities and the total siege of Gaza began. On 24 October, WHO delivered medical supplies to the hospital amid high insecurity.
While welcome, the quantities we delivered are far from sufficient to respond to the immense needs in the Gaza Strip. The medical conditions at Al-Shifa - the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip and one of the oldest Palestinian health institutions - are disastrous.
There are currently almost two patients for every bed available. The emergency department and wards are overflowing requiring doctors and medical workers to treat wounded and sick patients in the corridors, on the floor, and outdoors. The number of wounded increases by the hour while patients are undergoing immense and unnecessary pain as medicines and anesthetics are running out. In addition, tens of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter in the hospital’s parking lots and yards.
Al-Shifa Hospital has traditionally been the most important health facility in Gaza. Its doctors, nurses and other workers have responded heroically to the current desperate situation. But they need more support. The northern areas of Gaza cannot and should not be isolated nor deprived of the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Patients there cannot be denied the health care to which they are entitled and urgently need. Aid should reach the whole of Gaza.
Medical facilities are running out of supplies and fuel. So far, no fuel has been allowed into the Gaza Strip, including to Al-Shifa hospital for over one month now.
UNRWA and WHO renew their urgent call for the delivery of fuel to humanitarian agencies in the Gaza Strip. Without fuel, hospitals and other essential facilities such as desalination plants and bakeries cannot operate, and more people will most certainly die as a result.
The ability of hospitals and medical facilities to operate is paramount especially during conflicts. In line with international humanitarian law, we call for the protection of all medical facilities, personnel, patients and the wounded, for the sustained flow of humanitarian supplies and fuel at scale, and for safe and unimpeded access to deliver the supplies to health facilities wherever they are across the Gaza Strip. We also call for the medical evacuation of critically injured and sick patients.