As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic has the world in its grip, and shows little sign of relenting. In less than five months, more than 4 million people have been infected and nearly 300 000 people have lost their lives and counting. This new virus has taken a terrible toll on lives and livelihoods around the world, exploiting the gaps in health systems and magnifying inequalities. Its political, economic and social effects will be felt for years to come.
Already, immunization campaigns against polio, measles, cholera, and other vaccine-preventable diseases have been suspended, and hard-won gains against HIV, malaria and TB are at risk. The total number of deaths resulting from the public health disruptions caused by COVID-19 could be many times greater than the death toll caused directly by the disease.
The pandemic is a graphic illustration of the vital interconnections of the work of WHO across each of the “triple billion” targets: emergency preparedness and response, universal health coverage, and healthier populations. As COVID-19 reminds us, the Organization's areas of work are interdependent, and none can exist without the others.
This Results Report lays out the vital work that we do, and shows how, even as we are responding to one public health event or crisis, we are also working to support countries in meeting the health needs of their populations, strengthening their systems, and planning for the unexpected.
With the pandemic dominating the headlines now, it is easy to forget that WHO is simultaneously taking on multiple other health threats, both ancient and modern.
As we work on responding to this pandemic, we must also prepare for the next one. Now is an opportunity to lay the foundations for stronger and more resilient health systems around the world.
The pandemic is a stark reminder of the need for urgent and sustained investment in health workers and health systems, as the best defence against health crises – both major, large-scale crises and those occurring at an individual level that millions of people face every day.
Health is a political choice. We face shared threats and we have a shared responsibility to act. If we learn anything from COVID-19, it must be that investing now saves lives –and money – later.
WHO’s commitment is not only to bringing countries together to end this pandemic, but also to building a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone, everywhere.
progress towards the triple billion targets
ACHIEVING 1 BILLION MORE PEOPLE BENEFITING FROM UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE
In 2018–2019, WHO prequalified 213 products, including pioneering game-changers in a biosimilar life-saving drug for breast cancer, an Ebola vaccine and a biosimilar insulin for diabetics.
Countries approved a political declaration that includes comprehensive health commitments at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019; with WHO’s support and expertise, several countries have now made progress on the road to universal health coverage. The dramatic price reductions of antivirals, which WHO has supported, has enabled more people to afford hepatitis B and C medicines and more countries to strive for hepatitis C elimination.
A pilot programme for the world’s first malaria vaccine may save many children’s lives in future; some 200 000 children have now been vaccinated in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
Expanded coverage and access have also helped several countries (Egypt, Ghana, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kiribati, Mexico, Nepal and Yemen) reach elimination goals in a neglected tropical disease in 2018–2019.
Malaysia, Maldives and Sri Lanka achieved mother-to-child elimination of HIV and congenital syphilis.
The scale-up of the HEARTS package has resulted in more than 700 000 people receiving treatment for hypertension.
Although access to health services has expanded, the world is still far short of the 1 billion target, and financial protection has weakened. Significant progress has been made in ramping up the capacity to embed interventions for noncommunicable diseases within primary health care, however significant work is needed to further expand coverage to end the epidemics of leading communicable diseases.
ACHIEVING 1 BILLION MORE PEOPLE BETTER PROTECTED FROM HEALTH EMERGENCIES
WHO battled outbreaks and responded to health needs in humanitarian crises: WHO picked up thousands of public health threat “signals” every month, of which more than 980 (in 140 countries) were assessed to be emergency events and responded to, where necessary.
Following the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, WHO coordinated a huge and complex operation, made more difficult by violence, a mobile population and a dearth of health facilities. After 18 months of operation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo achieved a zero-case level of Ebola virus disease. Thousands of front-line responders braved considerable risks to defeat the virus, as COVID-19 responders are doing today.
Case numbers fell in major cholera hotspots such as Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Globally, cholera cases declined by 60% in 2018 thanks to the delivery of 18 million doses of the vaccine.
Mass vaccination against yellow fever protected more than 100 million people from the disease in 2018–2019.
Some 500 million people were also vaccinated for seasonal influenza in 2019.
As is evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease outbreak can bring a nation to its knees. Some crises never made the headlines due to successful prevention efforts, however for some diseases, vaccination programmes need to be strengthened. Polio eradication has also faced challenges with 175 cases of wild poliovirus being detected in 2019 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the most since 2014.
ACHIEVING 1 BILLION MORE PEOPLE LIVING WITH BETTER HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Cleaner, safer and more supportive societies promote healthier populations. WHO’s leadership has helped secure political commitments from countries to meet WHO air quality guidelines, address climate change and improve health.
At the United Nations Climate Action Summit held in 2019, 50 countries – representing more than 1 billion people – answered WHO’s call to provide citizens with clean air by 2030, committing to achieve WHO’s recommendations.
The number of cities monitoring air quality measurements through a WHO air quality database has quadrupled since 2011, reaching 4300 in 2018. Thirty countries have already made significant progress in meeting their commitments to improve safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health facilities.
WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has protected more and more people against the harms of tobacco since it was ratified 15 years ago. Currently, about two thirds of the global population are covered by at least one tobacco control measure under WHO’s “MPOWER” package.
A historic agreement was reached between WHO and the International Food and Beverage Association, which has committed to eliminate industrially produced trans-fats from the global food supply by 2023. Fifty-four countries have established legislations to eliminate industrial trans-fats from the food supply following WHO’s REPLACE package. With the support of WHO, 60 countries now have a tax on sugar sweetened beverages.
A new tool has been launched to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of national food safety systems and prioritize interventions with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). WHO has also worked with FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health in a tripartite arrangement to strengthen action against antimicrobial resistance. Alliances with civil society and other partners have helped improve road safety in Chile, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Slovenia and Trinidad and Tobago.
Work to promote health and well-being faces a significant challenge, however, in attracting the attention and investments that it deserves based on its impact on morbidity and mortality.
enabling who to better serve countries
WHO has elevated its health diplomacy to the highest levels of government at national and global levels and in international and regional political bodies, such as the G20, G7 and the Africa Union, resulting in concrete commitments in promoting the health agenda within and beyond the health sector.
Innovative health partnerships have widened WHO’s influence: it has partnered with FIFA on projects targeting children and young adults and with Google to produce GoogleFit, an app that monitors physical activity.
The new Science and Data and Delivery Divisions at headquarters reflect WHO’s commitment to being at the forefront of science and delivering impacts through its new results framework. WHO has developed effective digital management tools to support emergencies. To best support countries, processes have been redesigned and global public health goods have been prioritized and WHO established a better coordinated country support planning initiative. In the long road ahead to fight COVID-19 through solidarity globally, WHO will continue to share experiences, expertise, resources and technical support with countries.
These are selected stories that exemplify impact in some countries, territories and areas.
Click on country label for more information
The designations employed and the presentation of these materials do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WHO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Dotted and dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement. All references to Kosovo should be understood to be in the context of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).