COVID-19 General

Plea for equitable vaccination!

The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa has arrived at a critical point. We are seeing increases in deaths and overwhelmed health systems, in countries that often lack the infrastructure to properly record cases and respond.

I see on the ground the toll all this is taking – on communities, on health workers and on vulnerable populations. West Africa is also dealing with more than one epidemic; as well as COVID-19, we have an ongoing security epidemic and the threat of another Ebola epidemic. COVID-19 has left us exposed and that increases the chances of other health threats snowballing and costing us at least a decade or more of progress.

But there are green shoots of hope. Not the least of which is the incredible efficiency with which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed. These are incredible and inspiring achievements, and a lesson in global collaboration. But this spirit of collaboration is still needed as we move now to the crucial vaccine roll-out.

COVID-19 General

Reflections on 2020

There has not been much time for reflection this year, it has been a year of crisis and action. However, as well as carrying out our work, it is important too to take some time to pause and reflect.

COVID-19 has affected the world in ways we could never have predicted, and it has been a challenge to us all, whoever and wherever we are.

If there was ever a clear sign of the need to move towards global equity, it is COVID-19

Prof Samba Sow

It has not affected us all equally, however – we are not all in the same boat, as they say. We may all be buffeted by the same great waves of this disease, but we have very different boats in which to try and navigate them. Some have yachts, some dinghies, while some are clinging on to a piece of driftwood. If there was ever a clear sign of the need to move towards global equity, it is COVID-19. Poverty exacerbates COVID-19 and COVID-19 is going to exacerbate poverty. It is estimated that the pandemic will push an additional 88 – 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million people by 2021, depending on the severity of economic contractions. These people will be more vulnerable to further disease. And this must be reflected as vaccine distribution starts.

As a global community, we must resolve to invest in primary health care and the basic principle of health for all

Prof Samba Sow

For many years I have believed that primary health care and universal health coverage are the keys to delivering health for all. COVID-19 has only strengthened that belief – primary health care is the only way to ensure all our communities have access to routine and lifesaving healthcare. Without strong primary health care, there is no way to overcome this pandemic, to deliver vaccines, to overcome dangerous anti-science and anti-medical opinions, and to build better systems for all. It really is as simple as that. As a global community, we must resolve to invest in primary health care and the basic principle of health for all.

This year, we have seen health being used as a political commodity. This time of crisis has battered entire countries and their populations. The right to health is a fundamental tenet of our human rights and of our understanding of life lived in dignity. As we struggle to make sense of the events of this year, that we remember and act on this principle is my one hope.

2020 has been a uniquely difficult year – but there has also been cause for celebration. The unity and solidarity shown, under WHO’s leadership, in the development of tests, vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 has been inspirational. It has clearly shown how much stronger we are when we act together.

The new year promises to be every bit as challenging as 2020. That makes it more important than ever that we rest, with family and loved ones, over this holiday season, that we may face whatever 2021 has in store refreshed and with renewed strength and unity.

With that, I wish you all, partners, friends and colleagues, a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.

Samba O Sow, Director General, CVD-Mali