On 16 May 2022, ahead of the forthcoming World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its results report for 2020 to 2021, which tracked significant achievements by the WHO across the global health spectrum, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During 2020 to 2021, the WHO led the largest-ever global response to a health crisis, working with 1600 technical and operational partners, and helped galvanise the biggest, fastest and most complex vaccination drive in history, as well as spending US$1.7 billion on essential supplies to the COVID-19 response.
The ACT-A partnership delivered over one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by January 2022. The global rollout of crucial health materials included nearly US$500 million worth of personal protective equipment, US$187 million in oxygen supplies, US$4.8 million in treatments and 110 million diagnostic tests. It is noted, however, that much remains to be done for the world to get on track in achieving the WHO’s target of each country vaccinating 70% of its population by July 2022.
The results report reveals several achievements, finding:
- mandatory policies prohibiting the use of trans fatty acids, a hazardous food compound linked to cardiovascular disease, are in effect for 3.2 billion people in 58 countries, with 40 of these countries having best practice policies, including the UK
- tobacco use is decreasing in 150 countries
- fifteen countries have achieved elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV or syphilis
- the WHO’s recommendation of widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine (RTS,S) has been delivered to over one million children, with an expected saving of between 40,000 to 80 000 lives a year, when used with other malaria control interventions
However, the report also finds that, due to myriad disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have fallen behind on the WHO’s triple billion targets, which provide critical pathways to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Progress on universal health coverage and healthier populations are at about one quarter or less of the pace needed to reach the SDGs by 2030, and no country was fully prepared for a pandemic of such scale.
COVID-19 also caused huge disruptions to health services, with 117 of 127 surveyed countries surveyed reporting disruption to at least one essential health service because of COVID, whilst the average disruption across those countries was 45%.
Going forward, fulfilling the triple billion targets will be the WHO’s overriding goal, as a measurable means of reducing health equity gaps.
Source: WHO, 16 May 2022