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Support for developing countries’ response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic

Joint Statement by the UN Secretary-General and the WHO Director-General
24 September 2009

Four months ago, WHO declared the first influenza pandemic in 40 years. This H1N1 pandemic is spreading far and wide – and moving fast.

It has resulted in only moderate illness in most cases. But experience from the southern hemisphere during their winter season shows that the virus can place a considerable strain on health services and can result in serious illness and death. Young people, especially pregnant women and those with chronic disease, seem to have the highest rate of complications.

The Mexican experience showed that strong leadership and global solidarity are crucial. Yet it also reminded us that pandemics have the potential to affect social, economic and even political systems.

Developing countries are likely to be at most risk from the pandemic. They face the dual problem of highly vulnerable populations and limited resources to respond the pandemic.

Today we will discuss the state of pandemic preparedness for Least Developed and Gavi-eligible countries, and the new report by the World Health Organization and the UN System, which identifies the most urgent actions needed.

First: We need to ensure that people have access to essential medical supplies.

Second: The least developed countries must be enabled to be as prepared as possible to face the pandemic as it begins to penetrate into their poorest communities.

Around US$ 1.1 billion are needed to ensure that least developed countries have the essential medicines needed to treat severe cases and sufficient vaccine to protect health care workers and other essential service personnel. This will help maintain critical services. An additional US$ 262 million is needed to provide urgent assistance to these countries so they can rapidly build further health system capacity to cope with the current influenza pandemic and future disease outbreaks, and ensure that essential medicines and vaccines can be distributed and used effectively.

We were heartened by the recent announcements that several countries will make a portion of their pandemic vaccine supply available to countries in need and that several vaccine manufacturers are also contributing, through donations and reduced pricing. A number of donor countries have also pledged financial and technical support and many others are studying carefully how they could best help assist.

This pandemic may be with us for some time to come and much work lies ahead. However this meeting and the commitments of support for those in the least resourced countries offered in recent days are important demonstrations of global solidarity. We hope this spirit will continue and build in the coming months.