UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock today released US$15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to help fund global efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus.
The announcement came as the World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the global risk of the coronavirus outbreak to “very high” – its top level of risk assessment. The WHO has said there is still a chance of containing the virus if its chain of transmission is broken.
The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning. There are now cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman, along with cases linked to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.
The UN funding has been released to the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It will fund essential activities including monitoring the spread of the virus, investigating cases, and the operation of national laboratories.
The WHO has called for US$675 million to fund the fight against coronavirus. There is a window of opportunity to contain the spread of the virus if countries take robust measures to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts.
Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock said: “We do not yet see evidence that the virus is spreading freely. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing it.
“But swift and robust action must be taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts. We must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk.
“This grant from the UN’s Emergency Fund will help countries with fragile health systems boost their detection and response operations. It has the potential to save the lives of millions of vulnerable people.”
This is a critical juncture in the outbreak. The focus is on containing COVID-19 by strengthening surveillance, conducting thorough outbreak investigations to identify contacts and applying appropriate measures to prevent further spread.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “The potential spread of the virus to countries with weaker health systems is one of our biggest concerns. These funds will help support these countries get ready for detecting and isolating cases, protecting their health workers, and treating patients with dignity and appropriate care. This will help us save lives and push back the virus”
UNICEF is leading on preventative actions in communities across the affected countries with risk communication, providing hygiene and medical kits to schools and health clinics and monitoring the impact of the outbreak to support continuity of care, education and social services.
“At this pivotal moment, every effort must be made to push back against the outbreak,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “These crucial funds will support our global efforts to bolster weaker health systems and inform children, pregnant women and families about how to protect themselves.”
Since it was launched in 2006, CERF has provided more than $6 billion to over 100 countries and helped hundreds of millions of people.
Remarks by Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, World Health Organization Assistant Director-General, Emergency Response
I hope that your busy week was interrupted, like mine, with a moment of joy on Tuesday.
That moment was the celebration of a woman being discharged from an Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Her name is Masika.
She was the last person in the Democratic Republic of the Congo confirmed to have Ebola.
Health workers and other responders sacrificed a lot to get to this point.
Since the outbreak was declared in August 2018 there have been 420 attacks on health facilities in DRC, resulting in 11 deaths and 86 injuries among health care workers and patients.
It’s been a huge amount of work. At the peak of the outbreak, more than 120 cases were being reported each week. 28 health zones were affected, with cases appearing 1200 kilometres apart. In response:
11 labs have been set up to test around 3500 samples each week
11 Ebola treatment centres were set up to care for people with Ebola
300 000 people have been vaccinated
250 000 contacts have been registered
26 000 safe and dignified burials have been conducted
More than 3000 health facilities were identified for infection prevention and control support
More than 1000 metric tonnes of supplies have been delivered
An Ebola vaccine has been licensed, and two treatments found to be highly effective
Almost 160 million people have been screened for Ebola symptoms at borders or other points of control
This work is continuing. The outbreak isn’t over. WHO recommends waiting two full incubation periods – that’s 42 days – after the last person tests negative a second time before declaring the end of the outbreak.
We must stay in active response mode to get us over that finish line.
We have to be prepared for other cases emerging. It’s is a very real risk.
Remember that during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa flare-ups of new cases occurred after the end of the outbreak.
There are four reasons why new cases may emerge during this 42-day period, or even after the end of the outbreak.
First, because of the complex security environment, Ebola transmission outside of groups under monitoring is possible.
Second, Ebola virus can persist in used needles, syringes or vials for several weeks.
Third, Ebola virus can persist in the body fluids of survivors for many months, and can be transmitted well after recovery, or in rare cases can result in relapse – as we’ve already seen during this outbreak.
Finally, Ebola virus is present in an animal reservoir in the region, and there is always a risk of a new spillover to humans.
This is why it’s critical to maintain surveillance and rapid response capacities.
And that’s what we are doing. We’re still in full response mode.
In addition to the activities I already mentioned, I have to underline how critical it is to continue supporting the Survivor Programme, which provides follow-up care for almost all of the 1169 survivors in 26 health areas in North Kivu and Ituri. The programme also helps reduce the risks of re-introduction events.
We need to continue this work until the end of the outbreak, to keep the capacity in place to rapidly respond to flare-ups, to keep supporting survivors after the outbreak, and to transition the capacities built in this response toward building a stronger health system.
But to be very frank, right now the world risks dropping the baton at the finish line. WHO faces an immediate US $20 million funding gap. If no new resources are received, we will run out of money before the end of the outbreak.
We appreciate the generosity of donors who have supported the response since August 2018. Now we need to get over the finish line. WHO is calling on the international community to help us end this outbreak, and keep our promises to communities to build a stronger health system.
If we are forced to scale back operations because of a lack of funds, and then a new case emerges, we might not have the people and resources on the ground that we need to shut down transmission quickly. Just a single case could re-ignite the epidemic.
That would be a tragedy. An avoidable tragedy.
It is important that the global community doesn’t only focus efforts when there is an immediate threat, then walk away when the threat subsides.
The health system has to be strong to stop much more than Ebola. It has to stop malaria, measles, cholera, and now COVID-19.
There is a lot more work to do.
WHO resources for protection of health workers and emergency responders
The protection of health workers is one of the priorities for the response to COVID19 outbreaks. Occupational health services in health care facilities have an important role for protecting health workers and ensuring the business continuity of health care services.
Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak: Rights, roles and responsibilities of health workers, including key considerations for occupational safety and health (English only)
Health workers exposure risk assessment and management in the context of COVID-19 virus
Rational use of personal protective equipment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
WHO, ePROTECT respiratory occupational health and safety
The COVID-19 risk communication package for healthcare facilities
WHO and ILO, Occupational safety and health in public health emergencies: A manual for protecting health workers and responders (English) (Chinese)
ILO and WHO, Work improvement in health services (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arab, Chinese)
WHO resources for non-healthcare workplaces
Non-healthcare workplaces, such as businesses and enterprises have also the responsibility to protect the health and safety of their workers and those affected by their operations.
Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
Business and employees
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) technical guidance: Points of entry and mass gatherings
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
Coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak
Travel and tourism
WHO Travel Advice
Prevention COVID-19 at the workplace
As of today’s reports, the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 100 000. As we mark this sombre moment, the World Health Organization (WHO) reminds all countries and communities that the spread of this virus can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities.
A new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Solidarity Response Fund will raise money from a wide range of donors to support the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to help countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund, the first-of-its-kind, enables private individuals, corporations and institutions anywhere in the world to come together to directly contribute to global response efforts, and has been created by the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, together with WHO.
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