HT team

October 6, 2022: A slew of disease outbreaks globally are devastating families and communities and crippling economies, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Ebola in Uganda, multiple outbreaks in Pakistan, cholera, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the global monkeypox outbreak, and the annual threat of influenza need solutions at an international community level, he said.

“In particular, it shows why cost-effective investments in disease surveillance and primary health care are so important.”

Uganda reported 63 cases of Ebola, and 29 people have died. Ten health workers were infected, and four have died.

Ebola variants

“The vaccines used successfully to curb recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were not effective against the type of Ebola virus responsible for this outbreak in Uganda,” he said.

Several vaccines are at the developmental stage, with clinical trials in Uganda slated to start in a few weeks.

More than 1,500 people died in Pakistani floods, and “many more could be lost to disease in the coming weeks” without a massive and urgent international response. About 10% of Pakistan’s health facilities have been damaged, leaving millions without access to health care.

“There are now outbreaks of malaria, cholera and dengue, an increase in skin infections, and we estimate that more than 2000 women are giving birth every day, most of them in unsafe conditions,” he said.

COVID-19 cases 

The WHO Director-general said that several European nations reported an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“We expect reported cases of COVID-19 to increase. But the deaths don’t have to, given we have vaccines and therapeutics that can save lives.”

Omicron remains the dominant variant globally, and WHO and our partners are tracking more than 300 sub-variants. 

“Surveillance, testing and sequencing remained weak globally, which makes tracking this virus (seem) like chasing shadows,” Ghebreyesus said. “At the same time, the Northern hemisphere influenza season is starting.”

Return of cholera

Cholera has come back in 27 countries after years of decline worldwide. “Not only are we seeing more outbreaks, but more deadly outbreaks.”

The WHO has limited data. Still, this year’s average case fatality rate has been almost three times the past five years.

“In Syria, more than 10 000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported just in the past six weeks. This outbreak is a particular setback as Haiti was preparing to be cholera-free later this year.”

In 2013, WHO and our partners created an international stockpile of cholera vaccines, which shipped 27 million doses last year. With an increasing number of outbreaks, demand has overtaken supply.

“Cholera thrives on poverty and conflict but is now being turbo-charged by climate change,” he said.