Director-General’s opening remarks at the 2022 Global Task Force on Cholera Control Side Event in observance of WHA – 25 May 2022

Excellencies, heads of delegation, dear colleagues and friends,

It’s an honour to join you today.

I thank the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for hosting this event and the Country Support Platform of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control.

Although cholera was eliminated from the global north more than 150 years ago, it continues to plague the global south.

Cholera is a disease of inequity. Almost exclusively, it affects people in communities without adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, and those who have been displaced.

But thanks to the work of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control, we have some notable successes to celebrate.

Last year, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nepal, Niger, and Nigeria all responded successfully to cholera outbreaks.

And despite the pandemic, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia all conducted preventative campaigns with oral cholera vaccine.

This year, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Ethiopia are all planning to re-launch preventative campaigns.

And we are also celebrating three years of zero cholera in Haiti, thanks to the efforts of many partners represented here to strengthen surveillance.

Ethiopia and Kenya have joined the list of countries that have developed national cholera plans, while other countries including DRC, Mozambique and Zambia are either initiating or revising their plans.

Thanks to all of these efforts, cases and deaths have declined in recent years, but preliminary data for 2021 shows a massive increase in the number of cholera-related deaths, with an average case fatality rate of 3%.

Last year was marked by large cholera outbreaks in 20 countries, mostly in West Africa and Asia. Some countries have suffered their worst outbreak in decades.

The trend for 2022 remains very concerning, with at least 14 countries experiencing new cholera outbreaks.

This is why the work of the Global Task Force on Cholera Control is so important.

I thank the task force and all the partners for your steadfast commitment.

The outbreaks I’ve mentioned were largely controlled thanks to your efforts, in support of national authorities.

However, for every outbreak response, we are using up limited supplies of oral cholera vaccine and other commodities.

This is putting unprecedented strain on global resources and health systems in affected countries.

Thanks to the Global Task Force and the strong leadership by cholera-affected countries, we have a path forward.

This path requires action across sectors and using the tools we have well.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a common approach to a common threat. That is what we need to end cholera.

We are grateful to all the partners of the Task Force, those present today and those elsewhere. Without you, achieving progress in cholera control would be impossible.

We must not slow down; we must redouble our collective efforts.

Let me leave you with three areas of urgent focus, to help stop this preventable killer:

First, I urge all partners and donors to support the development and implementation of national cholera plans technically and financially.

Second, I urge countries and partners to invest in greater access to life-saving tools, to improve surveillance measures, and to fully engage communities in prevention and response efforts.

Third, I urge countries and partners to invest in water, sanitation, and hygiene systems, particularly in health facilities and among underserved communities.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to announce that His Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia has agreed to become a cholera control champion.

We are very grateful to His Excellency the President for his leadership on this important public health issue, and we look forward to hearing from him via video address shortly.

I met him a few weeks ago, and his commitment is amazing. That kind of leadership we need in cholera prevention and control. With the political commitment you will mobilise, I know we will make good progress. As the saying goes, political intervention is surgical intervention.

I thank again His Excellency the President for agreeing to champion.

Thank you all once again for your continued commitment to cholera control. WHO is proud to work with you. Together, we can end cholera.

I thank you.

Source: World Health Organization

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