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We’re worried that COVID-19 has diverted attention, resources from other diseases —WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday night the COVID-19 had diverted public attention and resources from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

In a new survey, the United Nations agency said the situation was disturbing as NCDs kill no fewer than 40 million people annually.

Besides, the WHO said that people living with these diseases were more likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19.

According to the organisation, the study was conducted in 155 countries in a period of three weeks.

WHO said the result showed that although the disruption of non-communicable diseases by COVID-19 was global, developing countries had been most affected.

It stated that over half of the countries surveyed reported that services for NCDs have been partially or completely disrupted, while two-thirds said rehabilitation services were affected.

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It said: “The survey found that 94 percent of the countries have partially or fully reassigned health ministry staff working on NCDs to support COVID-19 response.

“For instance, the survey says screening campaigns for breast and cervical cancer were also postponed in more than half of the countries.”

The new survey comes barely a month after the UN warned that the pandemic was threatening decades of progress made in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), which gave the warning on May 11, said the disruptions to HIV/AIDS treatment could result in hundreds of thousands of HIV-related deaths.

Commenting on the new study, the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said it confirmed what the agency had been hearing from countries.

Ghebreyesus said: “Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It is vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19.”

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