WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at second meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox – 21 July 2022

21 July 2022

Chair,

Vice-Chair,

Colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all of you.

I thank all Members and Advisors of the Monkeypox Emergency Committee for making yourselves available at short notice, and despite their different time zones.

My thanks especially to the Chair, Dr Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, and the Vice-Chair, Dr Nicola Low, for coming to WHO headquarters for this meeting

I have reconvened this Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox because I need your advice in assessing the immediate and mid-term public health implications of the evolution of this event.

The considerations offered by the Committee during its first meeting, nearly one month ago, helped to delineate the dynamics of this outbreak.

I remain concerned about the number of cases, in an increasing number of countries, that have been reported to WHO.

More than 14,000 cases from 71 Member States across all six WHO regions have now been reported to WHO this year.

It’s pleasing to note an apparent declining trend in some countries, but others are still seeing an increase, and six countries reported their first cases last week.

As the outbreak develops, it’s important to assess the effectiveness of public health interventions in different settings, to better understand what works, and what doesn’t.

For the moment, the vast majority of cases continue to be reported among men who have sex with men.

This transmission pattern represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge because in some countries, the communities affected face life-threatening discrimination.

As many of you know from your deep engagement with these communities, there is a very real concern that men who have sex with men could be stigmatised or blamed for the outbreak, making the outbreak much harder to track, and to stop.

Working closely with affected communities in all WHO Regions will ensure the most effective approaches are in place.

As the outbreak evolves, the call for targeted and focused access to all counter measures for the most affected population has also increased.

Unfortunately, the information shared with WHO by countries in West and Central Africa is still very scant.

This inability to characterize the epidemiological situation in that region represents a substantial challenge to designing interventions for controlling this historically neglected disease.

I am acutely aware that any decision I take regarding the possible determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern involves the consideration of many factors, with the ultimate goal of protecting public health.

So I thank you in advance for providing me with the information and advice to inform my decision.

Thank you once again for committing your time and expertise to this very important process.

Thank you, and I wish you a very productive discussion

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