WHO: Nobody Was Interested Until Virus Spread Outside Africa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had been trying to combat the monkeypox virus in Africa for several years with no support, but once the virus started spreading out­side of Africa, the world took notice.

This is according to WHO assistant director-general for emergencies Ibrahima Soce Fall, who said yesterday that the discrimination must stop and countries must come together to combat the virus, “no matter the nationality, skin colour or religion of the affected population”.

Speaking from Dakar, Senegal, Fall said monkeypox had been on the WHO’s radar for several years, “but nobody was interested”.

He said the virus was considered a “neglected tro­pi­cal disease” and the WHO had been trying to tackle it with very few resources.

However, once northern countries began getting affected by the disease, he said “the world reacted”.

“It was the same with the Zika virus, and we have to stop this discrimination,” Fall said.

“The world must be involved to protect these populations, no matter their nationality, their skin colour or their religion. I think it is extremely important, and now that more than 70 countries are affected in the world, everyone is getting active,” he said.

Until this year, the virus has rarely spread outside of Africa where it is endemic.

The WHO declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern on July 23, the organisation’s highest level of alert, aimed at enhancing co-ordination, the co-­operation of nations, and global solidarity.

“It is important, and we have already been doing so, to accele­rate the research and development agenda on monkeypox so that the most affected African countries can have the resources to prevent and fight against monkeypox,” Fall said.

He urged other countries to ensure that treatment reaches African populations.

“We have had many cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and some sporadic cases in countries such as Ghana, Benin, etc,” he noted.

“I think it is time that the world invests so that these populations that are living in rural areas and in forest areas can be protected. If we only treat what is happening in Europe and America, we will only treat the symptoms of monkeypox, but not the real disease. It is important that the world gets mobilised to this kind of disease,” he added.