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(WHO MEDIA) – Our world is an unequal one.

COVID-19 has hit all countries hard, but its impact has been harshest on those communities which were already vulnerable and more likely to experience adverse consequences.

COVID-19 exposed many disparities.

All over the world, persons struggle to make ends meet with fewer employment opportunities, have challenging housing conditions and education, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to basic necessities: clean water, food security and health services. This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. It harms our societies and economies.

This is not only unfair: it is preventable.

That is why the World Health Organization called on all leaders to monitor these health inequities and to ensure that all persons can access quality health services when and where they need them.

This April 7th marks the celebration of World Health Day.

From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization. This year that theme is “Building a fairer, healthier world”.

One week ago, on March 30th, 25 heads of government and international agencies came together on an extraordinary joint call to observe this theme of World Health Day and signed an International Pandemic Treaty. It is hoped that this new treaty would herald high-level economic and sustainable actions needed to protect the world from future health crises.

The TREATY states:

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s. At that time, following the devastation of two world wars, political leaders came together to forge the multilateral system. The aims were clear: to bring countries together, to dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism, and to address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, namely peace, prosperity, health and security.”

“Today, we hold the same hope that as we fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic together, we can build a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations. There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when. Together, we must be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly coordinated fashion. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”

“We are, therefore, committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics. Immunization is a global public good and we will need to be able to develop, manufacture and deploy vaccines as quickly as possible.”

“This is why the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) was set up in order to promote equal access to tests, treatments and vaccines and support health systems across the globe. ACT-A has delivered on many aspects but equitable access is not achieved yet. There is more we can do to promote global access.”

“The main goal of this treaty would be to foster an all-of-government and all-of-society approach, strengthening national, regional and global capacities and resilience to future pandemics. It would also include recognition of a “One Health” approach that connects the health of humans, animals and our planet. And such a treaty should lead to more mutual accountability and shared responsibility, transparency and cooperation within the international system and with its rules and norms.”

“To achieve this, we will work with Heads of State and governments globally and all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector. We are convinced that it is our responsibility, as leaders of nations and international institutions, to ensure that the world learns the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Pandemic preparedness needs global leadership for a global health system fit for this millennium. To make this commitment a reality, we must be guided by solidarity, fairness, transparency, inclusiveness and equity.”

Signed By:

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization;

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom;

Charles Michel, President of the European Council;

Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea;

Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa;

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda;

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya;

Kais Saied, President of Tunisia;

Macky Sall, President of Senegal;

Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago;

Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile;

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica;

J.V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji;

Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand;

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands;

António Luís Santos da Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal;

Mario Draghi, Prime Minister of Italy;

Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain;

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway;

Emmanuel Macron, President of France;

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany;

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece;

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania;

Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia;

Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia;

Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania;

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia;

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine.