Tonnes of COVID-19 health care waste expose urgent need to improve waste management systems

31 Jan

Tens of thousands of tonnes of extra medical waste from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has put tremendous strain on health care waste management systems around the world, threatening human and environmental health and exposing a dire need to improve waste management practices, according to a new WHO report.

The WHO Global analysis of health care waste in the context of COVID-19: status, impacts and recommendations bases its estimates on the approximately 87,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) that was procured between March 2020- November 2021 and shipped to support countries’ urgent COVID-19 response needs through a joint UN emergency initiative. Most of this equipment is expected to have ended up as waste.

The authors note that this just provides an initial indication of the scale of the COVID-19 waste problem. It does not take into account any of the COVID-19 commodities procured outside of the initiative, nor waste generated by the public like disposable medical masks.

They point out that over 140 million test kits, with a potential to generate 2,600 tonnes of non-infectious waste (mainly plastic) and 731,000 litres of chemical waste (equivalent to one-third of an Olympic-size swimming pool) have been shipped, while over 8 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally producing 144,000 tonnes of additional waste in the form of syringes, needles, and safety boxes.

As the UN and countries grappled with the immediate task of securing and quality-assuring supplies of PPE, less attention and resources were devoted to the safe and sustainable management of COVID-19 related health care waste.

“It is absolutely vital to provide health workers with the right PPE, “said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “But it is also vital to ensure that it can be used safely without impacting on the surrounding environment.”

This means having effective management systems in place, including guidance for health workers on what to do with PPE and health commodities after they have been used.

Today, 30% of healthcare facilities (60% in the least developed countries) are not equipped to handle existing waste loads, let alone the additional COVID-19 load. This potentially exposes health workers to needle stick injuries, burns and pathogenic microorganisms, while also impacting communities living near poorly managed landfills and waste disposal sites through contaminated air from burning waste, poor water quality or disease carrying pests.

“COVID-19 has forced the world to reckon with the gaps and neglected aspects of the waste stream and how we produce, use and discard of our health care resources, from cradle to grave,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO.

“Significant change at all levels, from the global to the hospital floor, in how we manage the health care waste stream is a basic requirement of climate-smart health care systems, which many countries committed to at the recent UN Climate Change Conference, and, of course, a healthy recovery from COVID-19 and preparedness for other health emergencies in the future.”

The report lays out a set of recommendations for integrating better, safer, and more environmentally sustainable waste practices into the current COVID-19 response and future pandemic preparedness efforts and highlights stories from countries and organizations that have put into practice in the spirit of “building back better”.

Recommendations include using eco-friendly packaging and shipping, safe and reusable PPE (e.g., gloves and medical masks), recyclable or biodegradable materials; investment in non-burn waste treatment technologies, such as autoclaves; reverse logistics to support centralized treatment and investments in the recycling sector to ensure materials, like plastics, can have a second life.

The COVID-19 waste challenge and increasing urgency to address environmental sustainability offer an opportunity to strengthen systems to safely and sustainably reduce and manage health care waste. This can be through strong national policies and regulations, regular monitoring and reporting and increased accountability, behaviour change support and workforce development, and increased budgets and financing.

“A systemic change in how health care manages its waste would include greater and systematic scrutiny and better procurement practices,” said Dr Anne Woolridge, Chair of the Health Care Waste Working Group, International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

“There is growing appreciation that health investments must consider environmental and climate implications, as well as a greater awareness of co-benefits of action. For example, safe and rational use of PPE will not only reduce environmental harm from waste, it will also save money, reduce potential supply shortages and further support infection prevention by changing behaviours.”

The analysis comes at a time when the health sector is under increasing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint and minimize the amount of waste being sent to landfill — in part because of the great concern about the proliferation of plastic waste and its impacts on water, food systems and human and ecosystem health. 

Note for editors:

This report was led by WHO Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Health Unit in collaboration with the following WHO teams: Infection Prevention and Control, Emergencies, Medical Devices, and Immunizations. Technical input was provided by WHO partners, Health Care without Harm, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Fund, and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), a global, independent, non-profit association, working in the public interest to promote and develop sustainable waste and resource management in the transition to a circular economy. 

Quotes from partners:

“Waste management is an integral part of the supply chain, as a result of the use and expiry of health products. Inadequate and inappropriate handling of health-care waste can have serious public health and environmental consequences and can significantly impact on the health of people and planet”.

Dr Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director HIV Health and Development, UNDP

"In the face of COVID-19, sustainable health care waste management is more important than ever to protect communities, health workers, and the planet and prevent pollution"

Ruth Stringer, Science and Policy Coordinator, Health Care Without Harm.


The Foiled Attack on Syrian Detention Facility

31 Jan

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States commends the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for their heroic and effective response to the sustained ISIS attack on the Hasakah detention center and the surrounding area. We send our sincerest condolences to the families of the SDF fighters and guards killed and to the communities impacted by the violence inflicted by ISIS. ISIS’ desperate and violent tactics are a grave reminder to the world that the terrorist group remains a threat that can and must be defeated.

Due to the effective response of the SDF, in partnership with U.S. and Coalition forces, senior ISIS leaders were captured or killed during the attempt to free detained ISIS members from detention. This battle is a reminder that the enduring defeat of ISIS requires the support of the international community.

We call on our partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, whose efforts successfully stripped ISIS of its captured territory, to improve the secure and humane detention of ISIS fighters, support rehabilitation initiatives, and urgently repatriate their nationals and other detainees remaining in northeast Syria. The U.S. government will continue its stabilization and other programs in the region to support these efforts.

The United States, through the Coalition, remains committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS, working by, with, and through our local partners.

Situation along Russian Federation-Ukraine Border Can Only Be Resolved through Diplomacy, Political Affairs Chief Tells Security Council

31 Jan

Calling for de-escalation of tensions along the borders between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council today that any military intervention by one country in another would be against international law and the Charter of the United Nations, as Moscow denied any intention of launching a war on that neighbouring State.

Mark Frerichs’ Second Year of Captivity in Afghanistan

30 Jan

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

Tomorrow marks two years since U.S. Navy veteran Mark Frerichs was taken hostage. Mark is a civil engineer who was helping with construction projects for the benefit of the Afghan people when he was taken captive.  Despite his innocence, he remains held hostage by the Taliban and its affiliates.

The United States has raised Mark’s case in every meeting with the Taliban, and we have been clear that the legitimacy the Taliban seek is impossible to consider while they hold a U.S. citizen hostage.  His release is among our core, non-negotiable priorities. We will continue to send a clear message to Taliban leadership: immediately and safely release Mark and disavow the practice of hostage-taking.

World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day: WHO calls for equitable health services for all

30 Jan

To mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day (WNTDD) , the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on everyone, to rally to confront inequalities that characterize NTDs and  ensure that the poorest and marginalized communities who are mostly affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) receive the health services they need.

In his message for World NTD day, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus   said the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust millions of people deeper into poverty and affected those who already have limited access to health services.“ He urged the global community – the countries, partners, and colleagues – to continue their work during the pandemic

WNTDD is an opportunity to re-energize the momentum to end the suffering from these 20 diseases that are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins. WHO and the global NTD community have been holding several events to mark World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, which this year, coincides with World Leprosy Day (observed on the last Sunday of January).

WHO held 2 events (World NTD Day 2022: Achieving health equity to end the neglect of poverty-related diseases and  Mobilizing the World to Defeat Neglected Tropical Diseases) this week and partners gathered government leaders and industry under the ‘100% committed’ campaign on Thursday to launch the 100% Commitment Campaign that aims to support the achievement of the road map for neglected tropical diseases for 2021-2030.

“Progress achieved over the last decade is the result of the excellent public-private partnership with countries endemic for NTDs and the unfaltering support of partners who endorsed the London Declaration in 2012” said Dr Gautam Biswas, acting Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “It is exciting to see political will gearing up around the Kigali Declaration to achieve the new road map targets for 2030.”

Partners have been instrumental in supporting the implementation of disease programmes that is largely due to the availability of medicines, donated by several pharmaceutical companies representing an average of 1.6 billion tablets annually.

Several other celebratory events are being held, including the illumination of iconic building to raise awareness about these diseases that normally do not get the attention they need.

Neglected tropical diseases

NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins. They cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people.

The epidemiology of NTDs is complex and often related to environmental conditions. Many of them are vector-borne, have animal reservoirs and are associated with complex life cycles. All these factors make their public-health control challenging.

NTDs are prevalent mainly in rural areas, in conflict zones and hard-to reach-regions. They thrive in areas where access to clean water and sanitation is scarce – worsened by climate change. Addressing these diseases requires cross-sectoral approaches and tackling associated mental health and other issues such as stigma and discrimination.

WHO’s road map for 2021-2030, aligned with those of the Sustainable Development Goals, sets out ambitious targets in tackling many of these diseases in an integrated manner.

For more Information on WHO’s campaign, related events and stories from the field visit



Declaración del DNC sobre el rally de Donald Trump en Texas

29 Jan
La portavoz del Comité Nacional Demócrata, Adonna Biel, emitió la siguiente declaración antes del rally del expresidente Donald Trump en Texas:

“El rally del derrotado expresidente Donald Trump en Texas hoy, es solo la más reciente  parada en su tour extremista. Cada rally de Trump es un recordatorio de que el Partido Republicano se ha rendido por completo ante el ala más incompetente de su partido. Como resultado del fallido liderazgo republicano, miles de tejanos perdieron la vida, las grandes corporaciones recibieron incentivos fiscales para enviar empleos estadounidenses al extranjero, y vemos nuestra democracia bajo ataque. Mientras tanto, el presidente Biden, la vicepresidenta Harris y los demócratas han trabajado y siguen trabajando para las familias de clase media, creando más de 6 millones de empleos; liderando una de las recuperaciones económicas más rápidas de la historia, y poniéndose manos a la obra para aprobar la Ley de Infraestructura Bipartidista sin ningún apoyo de los republicanos de Texas en el Congreso, para crear empleos, reconstruir caminos y puentes, y finalmente establecer toda la red eléctrica de Texas”.

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DNC Statement on Donald Trump Rally In Texas

29 Jan
DNC spokesperson Adonna Biel released the following statement ahead of defeated former President Donald Trump’s rally in Texas: 

“Defeated former President Donald Trump’s rally in Texas today is just the latest stop on his tour de extremism. Each Trump rally is a reminder that the Republican Party has fully surrendered to the most incompetent wing of their party. As a result of failed Republican leadership, thousands of Texans lost their lives, large corporations received tax incentives to ship American jobs overseas, and our democracy is under attack. Meanwhile, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Democrats have delivered for working families, creating over 6 million jobs, leading one of the fastest economic recoveries in history, and rolling their sleeves up to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law without any help from Texas’s congressional Republicans to create jobs, rebuild roads and bridges, and finally weatherize Texas’ electric grid.”

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EN LOS ESTADOS: Las noticias locales en español destacan el liderazgo del presidente Biden en la economía, la lucha contra el COVID-19 y la Infraestructura

28 Jan

Esta semana, las noticias locales en español estuvieron, una vez más, llenas de titulares sobre el liderazgo del presidente Biden. Destacan desde el envío gratuito de máscaras N95 y pruebas de COVID-19 a los estadounidenses; así como el repunte económico del país, tras liderar el año de mayor crecimiento económico en casi cuatro décadas, hasta las inversiones en la infraestructura a lo largo y ancho de la nación. 

Esto es lo que se lee esta semana en los medios hispanos del todo el país sobre el liderazgo del presidente Biden y sus acciones para enfrentar la pandemia:

Sobre cómo su liderazgo continúa reconstruyendo nuestra economía:

Y finalmente, sobre cómo la Ley de Infraestructura Bipartidista del presidente Biden  marcará una diferencia real en las comunidades de todo el país. 


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