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News in Brief 27 July 2020

News in Brief 27 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

We must all accept hard choices if we’re to beat COVID-19, urges WHO

Governments everywhere should adopt a much more focused approach to stopping coronavirus transmission if they want to avoid having to impose sweeping lockdowns once again.

That’s the message on Monday from the World Health Organization, (WHO),  which announced nearly 16 million cases of reported infection worldwide and more than 640,000 deaths.

At a virtual press conference in Geneva, head of emergencies Dr Mike Ryan likened fighting COVID-19, to using specialist tools in surgery, to ensure better outcomes for patients:

“It’s very understandable that no country in the world that’s been through a lockdown wants to go back there, who wants to go back there, there are huge economic and other consequences. If you can understand the dynamics of transmission and be very precise in your disease understanding you can very precise in your response. It’s like in surgery, if you think about people who have brain surgery, surgeons very often use microscopes so that they can actually work at a much finer level. And we’ve seen huge increases in the numbers of people surviving from brain surgery because we are much precise in the surgery we can carry out.”

Reiterating the need for continued vigilance against the disease and the need for authorities to ramp up tracking and tracing of contacts, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted that this coming Thursday marks six months since the UN agency declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern.

He warned the pandemic continues to accelerate, noting that in the past six weeks, the total number of cases had roughly doubled.

Hepatitis B eradication is close, amid ‘milestone’ achievement

The percentage of children under five who are chronically infected with hepatitis B has dropped to just under one per cent – a major global achievement – the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The welcome development, which refers to 2019 data, means that five times fewer children have the preventable disease now, than they did in the pre-vaccine era, from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

“No infant should grow up only to die of hepatitis B because they were not vaccinated; today’s milestone means that we have dramatically reduced the number of cases of liver damage and liver cancer in future generations", said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B remains the most important strategy for controlling the disease and saving lives for WHO.

Globally, more than 250 million people live with hepatitis B, which is also known as HBV. The disease attacks the liver and claims the lives of nearly 900,000 people each year.

Infants are especially vulnerable; about 90 per cent of those infected in their first year of life become chronic HBV carriers.

Rights experts warning over water and sanitation services shortfalls

Billions of people still lack safe drinking water and sanitation, a “humanitarian tragedy” in the making, that’s been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, a senior UN-appointed independent rights expert said on Monday.

Special Rapporteur Léo Heller warned that countries are “not on track” to meet 2030 Sustainable Development Goal targets, guaranteeing that everyone has the right to access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

This is despite a UN General Assembly resolution promising just that, in 2010.

“The coronavirus pandemic has taught us that leaving behind the people most in need of water and sanitation services can lead to a humanitarian tragedy”, Mr. Heller said in a statement.

He added that over the next 10 years, the human rights to water and sanitation “must be a priority if we are to build just and humane societies”.
Today, one in three people on our planet still lack access to safe drinking water and more than half of the global population lack access to safe sanitation.

Three billion people lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water and more than 673 million people still practice open defecation.

This causes 432,000 deaths from diarrhoea every year, Mr. Heller said.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • 'Hard choices' ahead on COVID warns WHO
  • Rights to water and sanitation are key: UN experts
  • Good news on hepatitis B
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UN Women/Fahad Kaizer