The relentless corona crisis is placing an enormous strain on healthcare facilities and workers worldwide. In many
countries this is overloading existing systems and the threat of a collapse is looming. ‘The best defense against any outbreak is a strong health system,’ stressed WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ‘COVID-19 is revealing how
fragile many of the world’s health systems and services are, forcing countries
to make difficult choices on how to best meet the needs of their people.’
Who is WHO?
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is legally, organisationally and financially
independent. It was founded in
1948 with headquarters in Geneva. According to Article 1 of its Constitution, its
purpose is to help all people to enjoy ‘the highest attainable standard of health’. In addition to
promoting the general health of all people, one of its main tasks is to combat infectious diseases.
Concrete guidelines for the current crisis
To help all countries meet these challenges, WHO issued updated
guidelines on 30 March 2020. These contain specific measures at national,
regional and local level to prevent entire systems from collapsing. The measures cover routine immunisation, pregnancy and
childbirth care, care of young children and older adults, management of mental
health, infectious diseases and noncommunicable diseases, intensive care in hospitals, and support services such
as diagnostic imaging, blood banks and laboratory services.
Hygiene practices and personal protective equipment must
meet the highest standards. In general, all information must be kept up to date
at all times. This requires frequent and transparent communication with the general public.
WHO has published the following documents:
When health systems are overwhelmed, both direct mortality
from the corona outbreak and indirect mortality from diseases that can be
prevented or treated by vaccination increase dramatically.
Disruption to immunisations, even for
short periods of time, leads to an increased number of susceptible individuals
and increases the likelihood of preventable diseases such as measles.
As part of its global campaign, WHO recommends member states provide access to public hand hygiene
stations and make their use compulsory when entering and leaving all public or
private business premises and any public transport.
Recommendations to Member States to improve hand hygiene
practices to help prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus
Hand hygiene is one of the most effective measures for
reducing the spread of pathogens and preventing infections, including the
Campaign Day on 5 May 2020
In conjunction with the United Nations International Year
of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020 and the ongoing social media
campaign #SafeHands, there
will be a special ‘Save Lives: Clean Your Hands’ Day in many member states
on 5 May 2020. Activities
include presenting certificates of recognition for excellence in hand hygiene, governments confirming their commitment
to WHO recommendations and a
special clap initiative to thank nurses and midwives.