Tag Archives: Healthcare

The Secretary General Remarks at Launch of Policy Brief on Persons With Disabilities and COVID-19

New York, 5 May 2020 (recorded 4 May)

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting every aspect of our societies, revealing the extent of exclusion that the most marginalized members of society experience.

Today, I would like to highlight how the pandemic is affecting the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community.

This is exacerbated for those in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

People with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.

The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats.

Today we are launching a report that recommends a disability-inclusive response and recovery for everyone.

People with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

They face a lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities.

If they contract COVID-19, many are more likely to develop severe health conditions, which may result in death.

The share of COVID-19 related deaths in care homes — where older people with disabilities are overrepresented — ranges from 19 per cent to an astonishing 72 per cent.

In some countries, healthcare rationing decisions are based on discriminatory criteria, such as age or assumptions about quality or value of life, based on disability.

We cannot let this continue.

We must guarantee the equal rights of people with disabilities to access healthcare and lifesaving procedures during the pandemic.

Persons with disabilities who faced exclusion in employment before this crisis, are now more likely to lose their job and will experience greater difficulties in returning to work.

Yet, only 28 per cent of people with significant disabilities have access to benefits — and only 1 per cent in low-income countries.

People with disabilities — particularly, women and girls — face a greater risk of domestic violence, which has surged during the pandemic.

I urge governments to place people with disabilities at the center of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and to consult and engage people with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities have valuable experience to offer of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements.

Looking to the future, we have a unique opportunity to design and implement more inclusive and accessible societies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

 Last year, I launched the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy to ensure the UN system is doing its part.

The Strategy represents the UN’s commitment to achieve transformative and lasting change.

When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we are investing in our common future.

The Secretary General- Video Message to Launch Policy Brief on Older Persons

New York, 1 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world.

The fatality rate for older people is higher overall, and for those over 80, it is five times the global average.

Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

As an older person myself, with responsibility for an even older mother, I am deeply concerned about the pandemic on a personal level, and about its effects on our communities and societies.

Today we are launching a policy brief that provides analysis and recommendations to address these challenges. Our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people.

There are four main messages.

First, no person, young or old, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.

Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

Second, while physical distancing is crucial, let’s not forget we are one community and we all belong to each other. We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people through digital technology.

That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions.

Third, all social, economic and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, from universal health coverage to social protection, decent work and pensions.

The majority of older people are women, who are more likely to enter this period of their lives in poverty and without access to healthcare. Policies must be targeted at meeting their needs.

And fourth, let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless.

Many older people depend on an income and are fully engaged in work, in family life, in teaching and learning, and in looking after others. Their voices and leadership count.

To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people.

As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future.

Together we can win the war against COVID-19

— Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)

BY: 

KINGSLEY IGHOBOR

 Virologist Dr. John Nkengasong is the director of the Addis-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). It was established by the African Union to support member states’ public health initiatives and strengthen public health institutions’ capacity to detect, prevent, control and respond to disease threats and outbreaks quickly and effectively. On Thursday 26 March Dr. Nkengasong talked to Africa Renewal’s Kingsley Ighobor about COVID-19 and Africa’s response capability. Here are some excerpts:

Africa Renewal: How prepared is Africa to respond to COVID-19?

Dr. Nkengasong: We were fortunate that COVID-19 didn’t start in Africa. We had time to observe what happened in China in December 2019 and January 2020, and rapidly prepare countries to respond in key areas. One of those is diagnostics. By the second week of February, just Senegal and South Africa could diagnose COVID-19. So, in Senegal, we quickly brought together representatives of laboratories from 16 African countries, trained them and gave them diagnostic equipment. After that we conducted competency-based training in South Africa, where we also provided diagnostic equipment. Then we came back again to Senegal and trained another group. So far, we have trained representatives of laboratories from 48 countries. The cases being detected now are because of that massive effort.

What are the other areas?

The second area we focused on was infection prevention and control. We recognized that COVID-19 could overwhelm our healthcare facilities and that nurses and doctors could be affected. We cannot afford to have 3,000 doctors or healthcare workers infected, as was the case in China. So, we immediately brought representatives of 35 countries together in Nigeria and trained them on infection prevention and control. In Kenya we brought together representatives of more than 30 countries for training in enhanced airport, airline and port-of-entry screening.

Then we went to Tunisia and trained countries on communicating risk to the general public.

How is the African Union providing support?

We are using all expertise — from member states, Africa CDC and WHO — to respond to COVID-19.

At the political level, Africa CDC and the African Union Commission, under the leadership of chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat convened a meeting of all health ministers on 22 February where we agreed on the need to have a coordinated continental strategy that hinges on cooperation, collaboration, coordination and communication.

The second outcome of that meeting was the establishment of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus Preparedness and Response. The infection prevention and control part of that task force is co-led by Nigeria and Africa CDC. The laboratory part of it is co-led by Senegal, Africa CDC and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

What are the key challenges so far?

There are serious challenges in supplies. In New York, you hear the governor talk about shortages of respirators and other supplies. In Africa, we don’t manufacture these items; we import them. But now that the world is consuming a lot of what is produced, it is becoming difficult for us to obtain such items that will allow us to better prepare and respond.

What do you plan to do about this?

We have been working very hard with the office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, and the Jack Ma Foundation, who jointly launched an initiative to support African countries with a huge shipment of diagnostic equipment. I’ll call it the “marathon mission” because we have seven [Africa CDC] personnel at the airport coordinating with Ethiopian Airlines, WHO and the Ethiopian government to distribute throughout Africa about one million testing kits, six million masks, and 60,000 protective suits.

The current stock will buy us time for about two to three weeks. But in the next couple of weeks we need, as Africans, to have our own stock. Africa CDC and the AU will be heading out all over the world to stockpile massively so that we can support member states in the fight against COVID-19.

How is Africa CDC collaborating with WHO?

We are collaborating very well with WHO. I also wear a double hat as Dr. Tedros’s [Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general] special envoy for Africa on COVID-19.

We just finished a call with Dr. Matshidiso Moeti [WHO Regional Director for Africa] and two days ago, she and I discussed coordination and advocacy strategies. WHO has also played an important role in shipping diagnostic [equipment] to countries.

What information do you have regarding vaccine development and accessibility?

We are not close to a vaccine. We will be fortunate to have a vaccine in the next one to one-and-a-half years. I’m a board member of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, which was set up after the 2013 Ebola outbreak in West Africa to facilitate the development of vaccines. Within that group, I’m also on the Equitable Access subcommittee where we champion access to vaccines for vulnerable populations.

Any lessons from that Ebola outbreak?

One lesson we learned from Ebola was the importance of the deployment of young African responders. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, we enlisted 800 in what we called the African Healthcare Volunteer Force, and we will be doing the same to address this pandemic.

As we speak, there are more than 50 responders here [in Addis Ababa] that we have brought from different countries to support our response. And we are putting some in Nigeria and others in Cameroon. We plan to escalate that very quickly.

What is your final message to Africans?

My message to Africa is that we should adhere to the continental strategy endorsed by Africa’s health ministers in February and being championed by the chair of the African Union for 2020, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

If we do not have a continental strategy that enables us to coordinate, collaborate, cooperate effectively and communicate, we are doomed. No one country can eliminate COVID-19 in Africa alone. We must demonstrate a unity of purpose and work collectively to wage and win the war against COVID-19. We don’t have a choice.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal