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‘Eastern Mediterranean region lost 300,000 lives’

13 Oct 2021 By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – The Eastern Mediterranean region has mobilised more resources for the COVID-19 pandemic response than any other WHO region but has also lost around 300,000 lives to the pandemic with over 16mn cases reported till October 12.

Dr Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, gave the statistics while releasing the 2020 Annual Report on WHO’s work in the region during the 68th session of the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean being held in Egypt.

Dr Mandhari characterised actions taken over the past two years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of solidarity on a colossal scale.

“Together, we have mobilised more resources for the COVID-19 pandemic response than any other WHO region. We are not out of the woods yet with the pandemic. Our region has already lost almost 300,000 people. The Delta variant is widespread, and we still have a lot to do in rolling out vaccination equitably across all countries. But the main message from this year’s Regional Committee is: It is time to start rebuilding better and fairer,” he said.

‘Thanks to the generosity and solidarity of member states and donors, these efforts generated over US$350mn – more than any other WHO region. Most (55 per cent) of these funds were raised at country level, 42 per cent at the WHO headquarters level and 3 per cent at the Regional Office. In addition, US$131mn was added to this amount through transfer from other programmes, bringing the total amount of funds mobilised for the region in 2020 to more than US$480mn,’ stated the report.

The first COVID-19 case in the Eastern Mediterranean Region was reported on January 29, 2020, and within eight weeks all 22 countries and territories had reported cases. By the end of the year, total cases in the region had reached 5mn with 122,181 associated deaths.

Dr Mandhari also described cancer and other noncommunicable diseases that kill millions each year, declining immunisation rates, and severe climate and environmental change as urgent health challenges facing the region.

“Today, I am calling on us all – WHO, member states and partners – to tackle these challenges with the same drive, innovation, ownership and team spirit that we have shown in fighting COVID-19,” he said.

Dr Mandhari commended countries of the region for their remarkable resilience, and for the progress made in tackling COVID-19 and other emergencies, often when facing difficult and complex circumstances. He said that “with strong commitment, ways to move forward can always be found”.

“We need to use the momentum from the pandemic response to achieve lasting gains in health security and accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.”

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