"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing - 11 May 2023

[Date] May 11, 2023
[Source] World Health Organization
[Full text]

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening,

First to Sudan,

Ongoing fighting in Khartoum and across Sudan continues to cost lives and cripple the country economically and socially.

As well as facing shelling and insecurity, people are dealing with dwindling supplies of water, food, medicines and electricity.

70% of health facilities in areas affected by fighting are out of service, and WHO has verified 30 attacks on health.

Outbreaks of malaria, dengue and measles have been reported, and millions of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women are estimated to be acutely malnourished.

I thank the governments of Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan for welcoming refugees from Sudan; WHO is supporting these countries to provide health services to people who have had to leave their homes.

We have managed to deliver a significant quantity of supplies to Port Sudan, but unless these supplies can be distributed to health facilities, they are of no use.

Establishing safe routes for humanitarian aid is critical. But the ultimate solution is peace.


In New York this week, preparations began for three High Level Meetings taking place in September at the UN General Assembly, on pandemic preparedness and response, tuberculosis and universal health coverage.

These three issues represent the range and complexity of health threats people face around our world:

The ever-present threat of epidemics and pandemics;

The specific threat of diseases like tuberculosis;

And the systemic threat that hundreds of millions of people face, in not being able to access or afford essential health services.

This week's meetings were an opportunity to listen to the views of governments, civil society and others, in the lead up to the high-level meetings in September.

Each meeting will be an opportunity to catalyse political commitment to drive progress, and to generate concrete action and financial resources.

In each case, WHO is asking governments to make concrete commitments:

To invest in expanding access to prevention, testing, treatment, vaccines and research for TB;

To strengthen the world's defences against pandemics;

And to strengthen health systems, especially primary health care, so that no one misses out on the care they need because of who they are, where they live or how much they earn.


Finally to mpox.

In July last year, I declared a public health emergency of international concern over the multi-country outbreak of mpox as the virus spread rapidly across the world.

In total, more than 87 thousand cases and 140 deaths have been reported to WHO, from 111 countries.

WHO has been very encouraged by the rapid response of countries. We now see steady progress in controlling the outbreak based on the lessons of HIV and working closely with the most affected communities.

Almost 90% fewer cases were reported in the past three months, compared with the previous three months.

In particular, the work of community organizations, together with public health authorities, has been critical for informing people of the risks of mpox, encouraging and supporting behaviour change, and advocating for access to tests, vaccines and treatments to be accessible to those most in need.

Pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies have also played an important role in helping to expand access to these countermeasures.

While stigma has been a driving concern in managing this epidemic and continues to hamper access to care for mpox, the feared backlash against the most affected communities has largely not materialized.

For that, we are thankful.

Yesterday, the emergency committee for mpox met and recommended to me that the multi-country outbreak of mpox no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern.

I have accepted that advice, and am pleased to declare that mpox is no longer a global health emergency.

However, as with COVID-19, that does not mean that the work is over. Mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges that need a robust, proactive and sustainable response.

While we welcome the downward trend of mpox cases globally, the virus continues to affect communities in all regions, including in Africa, where transmission is still not well understood.

Travel-related cases in all regions highlight the continued threat.

There is a particular risk for people living with untreated HIV infection.

It remains important for countries to maintain their testing capacities and to continue their efforts, assess their risk, quantify their needs to respond, and act promptly when needed.

Integration of mpox prevention and care into existing health programmes is recommended, to allow continued access to care, and rapid response to address future outbreaks.

WHO will continue to work towards supporting access to countermeasures as more information on effectiveness of interventions becomes available.

It's now my honour to welcome the Vice-Chair of the Emergency Committee, Professor Nicola Low, to say more about the committee's deliberations and recommendations.

Professor Low, the floor is yours.


Thank you Professor Low, my thanks to you, to the Chair, Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, and to all the members and advisors of the Emergency Committee, for your hard work and careful consideration.

While the emergencies of mpox and COVID-19 are both over, the threat of resurgent waves remains for both.

Both viruses continue to circulate, and both continue to kill.

And while two public health emergencies have ended in the past week, every day WHO continues to respond to more than 50 emergencies globally.

Every day, we continue to support countries to address major health threats like tuberculosis;

And every day we continue to support countries to make progress towards universal health coverage.

As we approach the World Health Assembly and the three high-level meetings later this year, we face great challenges, but we also have unprecedented opportunities to make real commitments and real change that make a real difference for generations to come.

Fadéla, back to you.