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WHO DG Reflects On 2023, Urges “Balancing Achievements, Challenges”

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gives a press conference on the situation regarding the COVID-19 at Geneva's WHO headquarters on February 24, 2020. - Fears of a global coronavirus pandemic deepened on February 24 as new deaths and infections in Europe, the Middle East and Asia triggered more drastic efforts to stop people travelling. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
The director-general, World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, has urged for a balancing of achievements and challenges in the coming year, to advance health delivery across the world.

Ghebreyesus, who was speaking during his year-end message, encapsulated the milestones and challenges faced in global public health during 2023.

In May, he had declared an end to COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern, marking a turning point after three years of crisis. The world witnessed the approval of new vaccines for malaria, dengue and meningitis, offering hope in the fight against these threatening diseases.

Positive strides included the declaration of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Belize as malaria-free countries and the elimination of neglected tropical diseases in various regions. Efforts toward eradicating polio reached a significant milestone, and more countries introduced the HPV vaccine to combat cervical cancer.

On the global stage, the health impacts of the climate crisis gained prominence, with health becoming a focal point at COP28. Leaders at the United Nations General Assembly committed to universal health coverage, ending tuberculosis and safeguarding against future pandemics.

However, amidst these successes, the WHO DG highlighted the immense suffering caused by conflicts, citing attacks by Hamas on Israel and devastating events in Gaza. He emphasised the interconnectedness of peace and health, calling for an immediate cease-fire in conflict zones like Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine, Ethiopia and Myanmar.

Ghebreyesus expresses concern over the resurgence of cholera and the existing gaps in global readiness to prevent the next pandemic. Looking ahead to 2024, he foresaw opportunities in the negotiation of the Pandemic Accord, a global agreement aimed at enhancing collaboration, cooperation and equity to protect against future pandemics.

As the WHO concluded its 75th year, Ghebreyesus extends gratitude to health workers, partners and colleagues on the shared journey to achieve Health for All. 

In his holiday wish, he expressed hope for peace, health and prosperity worldwide in the coming year.

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