Mr. Guy Ryder,
Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends,
2021 has been the International Year of Health and Care Workers. But every year should be their year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fundamental role that health and care workers play in safeguarding our health and protecting our societies.
But to protect ourselves properly, we must protect them, with investments in their education, training, fair pay, dignified workplaces, and the tools to do their jobs safely, including vaccines.
And yet, many health and care workers around the world still do not have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO and its partners are working night and day to accelerate the deployment of vaccines in lagging countries, thanks to the ACT accelerator and its COVAX pillar.
The ACT Accelerator currently faces an urgent funding gap of US$16 billion to continue delivering vaccines, tests and diagnostics to low- and middle-income countries.
Compared to the costs of the disruption to businesses and economies, $16 billion is insignificant.
WHO is calling on all governments to pledge their fair share to fully fund the ACT Accelerator, to protect health workers and end the pandemic as a global health emergency.
Even before the pandemic, more than 2 million people died each year from preventable work-related illnesses and injuries.
Over the past two years, we have lost over 100,000 health and care workers to COVID-19.
The pandemic has demonstrated how important it is to develop and implement strong workplace health and safety programs.
It also showed that all countries must pay particular attention to infection prevention and control, as part of their commitment to protect health and care workers.
WHO is committed to strengthening its partnership with the ILO to protect workers’ health and safety and prepare workplaces for future health emergencies.
This builds on existing work, including the recently launched WHO Global Work Network, the Inter-Agency Program for the Sound Management of Chemicals, the ILO Global Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and our recent initiatives on health protection and essential transport. workers.
I express my deep gratitude to Guy Ryder for his leadership.
And I look forward to our continued partnership for a human-centred recovery from COVID-19, and healthier, safer and fairer workplaces in all countries.