In the 75 years since the United Nations was founded, humanity has never faced a set of challenges as we do right now. In 2020, the world was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and it paused. For the first time in 30 years, global human development declined.

As the virus spread and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, the SPHS members immediately responded to focus on recovering stronger, equitable, greener health systems and a more sustainable economy with fewer inequalities.

Today, the world is going through one of the biggest challenges in history with the COVID-19 outbreak, and the SPHS members’ commitment to human and environmental health has never been more critical.

With the emergence of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the procurement of health care commodities. The outbreak created an unprecedented challenge to waste management across the globe. As the number of patients needing health care exploded, managing massive health care waste became a challenge for both developed and developing countries.

But there is much more to it than that. In 2020, health systems generated significant environmental impact. These include GHG emissions, pollution, plastic and pharmaceutical waste. This, in turn, contributed to climate change, chemical contamination, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, air and water pollution.

“The global coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused unimaginable devastation and hardship, has brought our way of life to an almost complete halt. The outbreak will have profound and lasting economic and social consequences in every corner of the globe. We need to take on board the environmental signals and what they mean for our future and wellbeing, because COVID-19 is by no means a ‘silver lining’ for the environment,” stated Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

Then came the issue of fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine across the globe. In April 2020, WHO, Gavi, UNICEF, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) came together and formed an extraordinary global collaboration, COVAX, to ensure that people from all corners of the planet get access to COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of their location or wealth.

“As the most ambitious pandemic-response initiative ever conceived, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility is the best chance the world has to bring the pandemic to an end. But to succeed, COVAX requires broad international buy-in, based on the recognition that no one is safe until everyone is,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The UN Interagency on Sustainable Procurement in the Health Sector (SPHS) Digital Annual Report 2020 profiles the efforts of the SPHS Members (UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOPS, WHO, Gavi, The Global Fund, and Unitaid) to implement equitable, innovative, green and sustainable health care policies and practices that positively impact the global health supply chain and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. The SPHS members are working hard to support the global COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by helping countries address their most pressing needs and to mitigate the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

We acknowledge that ending the COVID-19 crisis will take a global effort and sustainable health care is a major component of the global green recovery.

The combat against the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and no one is safe, until everyone is safe.


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