2On 8 May 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), commemorated the 40th anniversary since the eradication of smallpox. The 33rd World Health Assembly officially declared the world and all its peoples free from smallpox on 8 May 1980. This declaration, according to the global body, marked the end of a disease that had plagued humanity for at least 3000 years, killing about 300 million people in the 20th century alone.

The remarkable achievement in eradicating smallpox after three long millennia gives hope to humanity in the current fight against the coronavirus pandemic that this battle can also be won.  The above sentiment was echoed in the opening speech by the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a virtual event hosted at the WHO-HQ, involving key players in the eradication efforts.  According to Dr. Tedros, “as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity’s victory over smallpox is a reminder of what is possible when nations come together to fight a common health threat.”

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1The COVID-19 virus is a common threat that can only be defeated with a common approach. The above statement was contained in an opening remarks by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during the launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative – Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, on 24 April, 2020. The launch of this global initiative was co-hosted by the Director-General of the WHO, along with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – in collaboration with major global health actors, private sector partners, and other stakeholders. Dr. Tedros described Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) as a landmark global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for the COVID-19.

Also, in his speech to mark the launch of ACT, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, emphasized the importance of making any vaccine or treatment for the COVID-19 virus accessible and affordable for everyone in all parts of the world. According to Mr. Guterres, “A COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Not a vaccine for one country or one region — but a vaccine that is affordable, safe, effective, easily-administered, and universally available — for everyone, everywhere.” No country or community is entirely free or safe from the coronavirus until everyone is free of the virus.

Watch the virtual WHO global solution launch:





8 March is observed as International Women’s Day (IWD) around the world. According to4 UN Women, IWD is a day to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Many of us can recall one or more such women in our life. The theme for the 2020 IWD is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.” The 2020 International Women’s Day is crucial as the world takes stock of women’s rights, 25 years since after the Beijing Women’s Conference, and the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action. This year also marks 20 years since the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of UN Women.

In his message on the International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, noted that transforming the balance of power is essential, not only as a question of human rights, personal development, health, and well-being, but it is critical to solving some of the most damaging and intractable problems of our age.

Read more:  International Women’s Day:

UN Secretary-General’s message:


3As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, recommended a scaled-down, shortened session of the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women, with the participation of only New York-based delegation. All parallel and side events scheduled to take place during the commission were cancelled. The cancellation was quite understandable, yet disappointing for the over 12,000 people who registered to attend the event from different parts of the world. New York-based Member States delegates convened on 9 March and adopted a political declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women entitled; “Women 2000: Gender equality, development, and peace for the twenty-first century.” Some civil society representatives were also present.

Click HERE to read the political declaration.


The current COVID-19 pandemic has once more highlighted the interconnectedness and2 vulnerability of the human race and our ecosystem. One of the lessons from the tragic coronavirus pandemic is that what affects people living even in the remotest parts of the planet has ramifications for others thousands of miles away. We live in such a globalized world where walls, no matter how high or secure they may be, can no longer shield any community from the impacts of the misery or good fortunes of their neighbors or even people in ‘far away’ lands. The other is the devastating consequences of human activities on the environment to human health, and the ecosystems –human health and global planetary health are interconnected.

We will be “playing the ostrich” if we merely concern ourselves with just what happens within our borders without being troubled by what is happening in other parts of the world. Lesson 101 from the current coronavirus pandemic is that we are all in this boat together.  And to survive, we must paddle in synch. This reality has several advantages, as well as challenges. But I believe the benefits far outweigh the difficulties if individuals, communities, and governments would reach out to the other in the spirit of *ubuntu.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, consistently calls for a global corporation in tackling the coronavirus. According to Dr. Tedros, global solidarity is an absolute necessity if we must win the war against the COVID-19. There have been heartwarming stories from around the world about individuals, organizations, and communities reaching out to others in creative ways during this challenging period, despite fears and concerns for personal safety. With the significant advances made in the fields of science and technology, the human race is better equipped in this 21st Century to respond effectively to any pandemic, with concerted efforts of the stakeholders.

The quote below is from an American philosopher of religion, Loyal D. Rue, which I think speaks to our current reality:”The universe is a single reality – one long sweeping spectacular process of  interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself… This (great cosmological) story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers -fashioned from the stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story … humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation … It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting solemn and collective responsibility for the future.” (Loyal D. Rue)

*Ubuntu: A Zulu term meaning “humanity”, but often used in a more philosophical sense to indicate “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.”



1As the UN agency tasked with the responsibility to coordinate global public health issues, the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to play a leading role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic by offering technical and logistical assistance to countries and communities around the world.  The Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and his team give regular live updates on the coronavirus pandemic on the UNWEBTV. You can also access the latest information about the COVID-19 from the WHO website:



6By Madame Batata Annie: Coordinator of GSEC, Pelende, Democratic Republic of Congo: We just had our women’s group meeting. The attendance was excellent. We reflected on our lives and our roles as women in the family and the community.   We went home after the meeting with greater awareness of our strengths, and how we must become leaders in our struggle for dignity. It is the woman that must lead in the fight for her dignity and gender equality. This implies that as women, we do not wait for others to liberate us from the outside; we must work to free ourselves from the inside.

Even when a woman has suffered rape, abuse, or humiliation, she must not let these injustices define who she is or her capacity to overcome those adversities. This is the work that Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are doing with women in the three rural parishes of Kwango Province (Kitenda, Pelende, and Intenga). Sisters Isabelle Izika and Marie Josephine Ibanda are training us not to wait to be liberated by other people but to be the actors in our liberation.

The experience of our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, is proving it. Women7 are in charge of the economy of many families.  Every day the woman gets up early in the morning to go to the fields, to the market, and different workplaces often in very challenging conditions so that she could provide for the education, healthcare, and other needs of her children. It requires heroism to be able to contribute to sustaining an entire family in our country, considering the circumstances. But millions of women are doing it.

The strategies Sisters apply in the training program is simple but time demanding.  It consists of personalized development: this means, discovering the economic potential of each woman, and helping her to acquire competencies in the area where she can excel. An empowered woman, in turn, empowers her family and community. Sisters teach us to become leaders in our communities so that we can also help other women. We collaborate with local political administrators, religious and traditional leaders in our women’s leadership training programs.