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The World Health Organization said Monday that constructive action against climate change could save "millions" of lives.
Ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, scheduled for October 31, the WHO is urging governments to reach concrete agreements to combat climate change.
"Countries must set ambitious national climate commitments if they are to sustain a healthy and green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," the WHO said Monday in a statement announcing a new report on climate change and health.
Amid the pandemic, climate crises including droughts, heat waves, flooding and hurricanes have ravaged all parts of the world.
"Changes in weather and climate are threatening food security and driving up food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, while climate impacts are also negatively affecting mental health," the WHO statement read.
The WHO report came on the same day that an open letter signed by more than 400 health bodies representing over 45 million health care professionals was released, calling for urgent action against climate change.
At this year's COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, participants will spend two weeks discussing the measures needed to avoid what some are calling an "unprecedented ecological crisis." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Climate change, WHO, Pandemic, Disasters
GENEVA — The World Health Organization is calling on governments to allocate the money needed to increase access to mental health treatment. WHO has published a new Mental Health Atlas marking World Mental Health Day Sunday.
Data collected from 171 countries show none of the World Health Assembly targets for the provision of mental health care by 2020 has been achieved. Therefore, WHO says it is extending its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan to 2030.
Fahmy Hanna is a technical officer in WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Use. He says lack of money is a major reason these goals have been missed. He says governments allocate just 2.1% of their overall health budgets to mental health services.
"And in the majority of the countries, most of this budget goes to psychiatric hospitals—long-stay, in-patient facilities instead of being spent on community-based mental health services, which are more human-rights-oriented and less decentralized and more accessible to the population," Hanna said.
The WHO reports more than a billion people globally suffer from mental health illness. The most common such illnesses include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar and eating disorders, as well as psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.
Hanna says WHO has carried out two surveys during the pandemic. He says the findings show major disruptions in services offered to people suffering from neurological illnesses and substance abuse. Image source: Photo by Mark Williams
The data in the atlas was collected in 2019 and reflects the status of pre-pandemic mental health services. However, health officials agree COVID-19 is having a major impact on people's mental health and more investments must be made in treating them.
Hanna says WHO has carried out two surveys during the pandemic. He says the findings show major disruptions in services offered to people suffering from neurological illnesses and substance abuse.
"At the time, where there was cause for scaling up mental health services around the world, we found from data of the surveys that were conducted in 2021 that actually 23% of countries have reported scaling back their community-based mental health services," he added.
Besides the human costs, WHO says skimping on investing in mental health makes no economic sense. It says lost productivity from depression and anxiety alone, two of the most common mental health disorders, costs the global economy $1 trillion each year. However, it notes there is a return of $5 for every dollar invested in treating these conditions. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Lisa Schlein)
Keywords: Therapy, Pandemic, WHO, Mental Health
World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that India becoming the pharmacy of the world is one of its biggest achievements in the past 75 years while listing out the country's achievements in healthcare.
Dr Swaminathan listed the country's few biggest achievements in the healthcare sector, she mentioned upon India successfully eliminating polio from the country, and few other vaccine-preventable diseases, reduced maternal and child mortality, universal health coverage and lastly it becoming the pharmacy of the world. India has made honourable achievements in the healthcare sector in the past few decades.
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The scientist put a spotlight on the fact that no country's health service has gone unscathed from the Covid-19 pandemic including India. The pandemic brought the health services under a state of an emergency impacting the delivery of essential healthcare. Dr Swamination states that there has been a setback in tuberculosis treatment, non-communicable diseases, in the delivery of ante-natal and child health services in India.
"There needs to be a good stocktake of where exactly more attention will need to be paid in the coming months, and not only to catch up, but also ensure that we create resilience within the system to ensure, that if there are future health shocks, and there are bound to be health shocks in the future, that we can deal with those without having to compromise on other essential health services," said Dr Swaminathan.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) data, malnutrition is one of the major contributors to disease burden to India and a predominant risk factor for death among children younger than the age of 5 years. The Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the situation from bad to worse. The scientist has cautioned experts to look at the data carefully as the virus has upended families and pushed numerous groups of people into poverty.
The Covid pandemic has increased the rates of poverty and is likely to increase undernutrition in the community.Wikipedia
She added, "The Covid pandemic has also increased the rates of poverty and is likely to increase undernutrition in the community. So we need to look at the data carefully increasing rates of poverty and undernutrition could drive up the incidence of diseases like tuberculosis, but also other diseases that are related to poverty. So this is something that we will need to watch closely and take preemptive action on."
ALSO READ: Explained: Why Delta Variant spreads fast
On the brighter side cases of Covid infections in India have been decreasing and have stayed below 30,000 daily in the past week. The country reported 22,842 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, a slight decrease of six per cent from yesterday. But at least 244 deaths were also recorded in the country due to the coronavirus, taking the death count to 4,48,817. The national Covid recovery rate was recorded at 97.87 per cent, the highest since March 2020.
Keywords: Covid-19, pandemic, poverty, WHO, healthcare.
The World Health Organization has designated a new strain of COVID-19 as a "variant of interest."
The global health agency announced in its weekly bulletin Tuesday that Mu, also known by its scientific designation B.1.621, has been detected in South America and Europe since it was first identified in Colombia in January.
The WHO said the Mu variant has several characteristics that make it more resistant to vaccines, but said more studies needed to be conducted to fully understand how it works.
The Mu variant is the fifth one designated by the WHO as a variant of interest. Four other variants have been designated as "variants of concern," including alpha, which has been detected in 193 countries, and the more transmissible delta, which is present in 170 countries and has been linked to the current worldwide surge of new infections.
Scientists in South Africa announced earlier this week they have detected a new COVID-19 variant designated C.1.2. The variant has spread across Africa, Asia, Europe and the southern Pacific region of Oceania since it was first spotted in South Africa in May.
The variant has not been identified by the WHO as either a variant of interest or variant of concern.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Tuesday urged Americans who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine to avoid traveling during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend due to a surge of new infections and deaths driven by the delta variant. The United States is averaging well over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, with states like Florida, Mississippi and Washington state reporting record levels of new cases and hospitalizations.
Meanwhile, two key officials in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccine review office are leaving their posts in the coming weeks. Dr. Marion Gruber, the director of the division, is retiring in October, while her deputy, Dr. Philip Krause, will leave the following month. The retirements of Gruber and Krause come at a crucial time for the FDA, which is nearing a decision on whether to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 years old and booster shots of the current vaccines already approved for the adult Americans.
Siblings waiting to get tested for covid-19 in North Miami, Florida. Florida schools are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases forcing of students and teachers to quarantine Image source:voavoa
The New York Times reports Gruber and Krause are upset over the Biden administration's recent announcement that booster shots would be offered for some Americans beginning next month, well before the FDA had time to properly review the data.
In Australia, Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state says authorities will gradually lift the current coronavirus restrictions once 70 percent of its adult residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Victoria and its capital city, Melbourne, have been under a strict lockdown since early August due to an outbreak that began back in June, but Andrews says it is now apparent that it was time to switch to a mass vaccination strategy to bring the outbreak under control.
"We were aiming to drive it down and have cases falling, it is now the advice of the experts that that is not possible, so now we have to contain the growth of cases and the speed at which they increase," Andrews told reporters. He said the state should reach 70 percent vaccination by September 23.
Victoria state posted a record 120 new cases on Wednesday, including two deaths. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Covid-19, Mu variant, WHO, Pandemic
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