New FAQs address healthcare workers questions on breastfeeding and COVID-19

2 months 2 weeks ago

Mothers and healthcare workers who support them have many questions and concerns about whether it is safe for mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to be close to and breastfeed their babies during the pandemic.

To address their questions, WHO has released a list of Frequently asked questions: Breastfeeding and COVID-19. The FAQ complements the WHO interim guidance: Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection when COVID-19 is suspected and draws upon other WHO recommendations on infant and young child feeding.

The FAQs aim to provide information to healthcare workers supporting mothers and families in maternity services and community settings, and communicate how the interim guidance should be implemented. Additionally, the FAQs provide information about the protective effects of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, and the harmful effects of inappropriate use of infant formula milk.

Accompanying the FAQs is a decision tree which provides step-by-step guidance to health workers on how to support mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to breastfeed. It provides advice on what to do if mothers are not well enough to breastfeed, as well as appropriate hygiene measures for mothers, including wearing a medical mask if available, to reduce the possibility of the COVID-19 virus being spread to her infant.

Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh potential risks

The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in the breastmilk of any mother with confirmed and suspected COVID-19 and there is no evidence so far that the virus is transmitted through breastfeeding. Researchers continue to test breastmilk from mothers with the infection.

WHO recommends that all mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 continue to have skin-to-skin contact and to breastfeed. In all socio-economic settings, breastfeeding improves survival and provides lifelong health and development advantages to newborns and infants. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for the mother. Skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, reduces neonatal mortality, especially for low birth weight newborns.

While infants and children can contract COVID-19, they are at low risk of infection. The few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in young children to date have experienced only mild or asymptomatic illness.

WHO’s recommendations on the care and feeding of infants whose mothers have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 aim to improve the immediate and lifelong survival, health and development of their newborns and infants. These recommendations consider the likelihood and potential risks of COVID-19 in infants and also the risks of serious illness and death when infants are not breastfed or when infant formula milk are used inappropriately.

WHO’s Q&A on breastfeeding and COVID-19 also provides additional infection prevention advice to mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

New GDO country profiles available

2 months 2 weeks ago
Countries across the six WHO regions are participating in the Global Dementia Observatory (GDO), a data and knowledge exchange platform. The GDO provides easy access to country-level key dementia data and functions as the monitoring mechanism of the Global dementia action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025.

WHO calls for healthy, safe and decent working conditions for all health workers, amidst COVID-19 pandemic

2 months 2 weeks ago
28 April 2020 - On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the World Health Organization calls upon all governments, employers and workers organizations and the global community to take urgent measures for strengthen countries’ capacities to protect occupational health and safety of health workers and emergency responders respect their rights to decent working conditions, and develop national programmes for occupational health of health workers and to provide them with occupational health services. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, ILO has dedicated World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2020 in addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, in particular, on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maternal infections in health facilities

2 months 2 weeks ago
A clearer picture of the global impact 

New research from the Global Maternal Sepsis Study (GLOSS), a major WHO/HRP initiative, shows that infection has a much larger impact on global maternal mortality and morbidity than previously thought.

Logo of the Lancet Global HealthThe results from GLOSS, published in The Lancet Global Health, are the first to provide data on frequency of maternal infections and sepsis across the pregnancy and post-pregnancy period, in a large number of health facilities around the world. 

Around 11 women per 1000 live births had an infection which resulted in or contributed to what is known as a severe maternal outcome – either they died or nearly died – during their hospitalization. 

Urgent improvement is needed to manage this life-threatening risk faced by all pregnant and recently pregnant women, wherever they are in the world. 

What is maternal sepsis and how does it lead to maternal death?

Maternal sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs during pregnancy, child-birth, post-abortion or the postpartum period.

The latest global estimates place sepsis due to obstetric infections as the third most common cause of maternal mortality. However, this only includes infections as a direct result of pregnancy, such as endometritis or post-caesarean wound infections.

Few previous studies include post-abortion infections. Neither do they address indirect infections such as respiratory and meningitis, which are aggravated by pregnancy but not directly caused by it.

A better understanding of maternal infection

GLOSS was a massive facility-based data collection effort led by WHO, accompanied by a ‘STOP SEPSIS!’ campaign to increase awareness among healthcare providers.

The study gathered data on women who were admitted with suspected or confirmed infection during pregnancy or post-pregnancy over a one-week period in 2017. More than 2800 women participated in the study in 52 countries.

GLOSS included healthcare facilities that care for women during pregnancy, childbirth or at the end of pregnancy, as well as facilities without maternity service but where women could be hospitalized during or after pregnancy, and data on infections which are not usually recorded as maternal sepsis, including post-abortion and indirect infections. 

The result is a more complete understanding of the frequency and impact of maternal infections in health facilities. 

GLOSS calls attention not only to the wider range of risks faced by pregnant women but also to the long period of time during which they are at risk. 

Putting global numbers on maternal infection and sepsis

Overall, around 70 pregnant or recently-pregnant women per 1000 live births were found to have a maternal infection needing hospital management. 

Across the study, 11 women with either direct or indirect infection per 1000 live births developed a severe maternal outcome, but in low- and middle-income countries up to 15 women per 1000 births were affected.

Infections were the underlying cause of most of the deaths recorded during the study, primarily post-abortion infection and indirect infections. Infections were also present in about a third of deaths attributed to other causes, such as postpartum haemorrhage.

This suggests that the contribution of infection to global maternal mortality and morbidity may be larger than current reports of maternal sepsis mortality suggest.

Preventing, identifying and treating maternal infection and sepsis

Some of the most common maternal infections found in the study, such as urinary tract infections, post-caesarean and post-abortion infections, are largely preventable and treatable.

GLOSS results suggest that current levels of monitoring and clinical care across health facilities are not enough to prevent, identify and treat levels of maternal infection effectively. 

For instance, a complete set of vital signs was not reported for a third of the women in the study, on the day their infection was suspected or diagnosed. Delays in antimicrobial therapy were frequent.

GLOSS also shows marked differences across countries, with the highest burden in low- and middle-income countries, compared with high-income countries.

This may reflect the impact of broader health determinants in different country contexts. Challenges of overcrowding, limited access to water and sanitation and constraints to safe births by skilled birth attendants can reduce the ability of healthcare providers to manage the frequency and outcome of maternal infections.

An opportunity to implement evidence-based practice

GLOSS gives healthcare providers, policy-makers, and the public at large an opportunity: to mobilise around these data improve evidence-based practice, and save lives. 

WHO has produced a number of resources which can support timely action to prevent, diagnose and treat maternal infection, as well as activities such as the upcoming SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign on 5 May which celebrates the central role played by nurses and midwives in clean health care. 

In addition, WHO will publish a global sepsis epidemiology report around the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) in May, as requested in the 2017 WHA Resolution on Improving the prevention, diagnosis and clinical managementof sepsis.

Understanding why and how infection affects women is essential for equipping healthcare providers with life-saving knowledge and enabling health care systems to bring down global maternal mortality and morbidity.

Related publications

WHO recommendations for prevention and treatment of maternal peripartum infections

WHO Clinical practice handbook for safe abortion

Global guidelines on the prevention of surgical site infection

WHO statement on maternal sepsis

World Health Assembly resolution on Improving the prevention, diagnosis and clinical management of sepsis

Health Topics

Antimicrobial resistance

Infection Prevention and Control

Water Sanitation Hygiene

Other links

Global Maternal Sepsis Study

SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands 5 May 2020



Commitment and call to action: Global collaboration to accelerate new COVID-19 health technologies

2 months 2 weeks ago

Our Vision and Mission

Grounded in a vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19, we, an initial group of global health actors (BMGF, CEPI, Gavi, Global Fund, UNITAID, Wellcome Trust, WHO) and private sector partners and other stakeholders, are launching a landmark, global and time-limited collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies.

We know that as long as anyone is at risk from this virus, the entire world is at risk – every single person on the planet needs to be protected from this disease.

We agree that alongside evidence-based public health measures, innovative COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines are needed – in record time and at record scale and access – to save millions of lives and countless trillions of dollars, and to return the world to a sense of ‘normalcy’.

We recognize the significant amount of critical work, investment and initiatives already ongoing around the world to expedite the development and deployment of innovative COVID-19 related products and interventions.

We appreciate that while development and deployment of innovative products is essential, it will not be enough. We must simultaneously and urgently accelerate the strengthening of sustainable health systems and capacities to enable delivery of the new COVID-19 tools to those who need them and to mitigate the knock-on impact on other diseases.

We remember lessons from the past, which have shown that even when effective tools are available to the world, too often some are protected, while others are not. This inequity is unacceptable – all tools to address COVID-19 must be available to all. In the fight against COVID-19, no one should be left behind.

We understand we cannot do this alone, and that we need to work together in unprecedented and inclusive partnership with all stakeholders – political leaders, public and private sector partners, civil society, academia, and all other stakeholders across society – jointly leveraging our comparative strengths and respective voices to drive towards collective solutions, an accelerated path, and access for all. We are stronger, faster and more effective working together.

Our Mission is not only accelerated development and availability of new COVID-19 tools – it is to accelerate equitable global access to safe, quality, effective, and affordable COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and thus to ensure that in the fight against COVID-19, no one is left behind.

Our Commitment

  1. We commit to the shared aim of equitable global access to innovative tools for COVID-19 for all.
  2. We commit to an unprecedented level of partnership – proactively engaging stakeholders, aligning and coordinating efforts, building on existing collaborations, collectively devising solutions, and grounding our partnership in transparency, and science.
  3. We commit to create a strong unified voice to maximize impact, recognizing this is not about singular decision-making authority, but rather collective problem-solving, interconnectedness and inclusivity, where all stakeholders can connect and benefit from the expertise, knowledge and activities of this shared action-oriented platform.
  4. We commit to build on past experiences towards achieving this objective, including ensuring that every activity we undertake is executed through the lens of equitable global access, and that the voices of the communities most affected are heard.
  5. We commit to be accountable to the world, to communities, and to one another. We are coming together in the spirit of solidarity, and in the service of humanity, to achieve our mission and vision.

Our Call

We ask the global community and political leaders to support this landmark collaboration, and for donors to provide the necessary resources to accelerate achievement of the objectives of this global collaboration, capitalizing on the opportunity provided by the rolling pledging campaign that will start on 4 May 2020.

WHO urges countries to move quickly to save lives from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

2 months 2 weeks ago

Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and in access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018, according to a new modelling analysis released by WHO and partners ahead of World Malaria Day (25 April).

WHO urges countries to move fast and distribute malaria prevention and treatment tools at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa, and to do their utmost to safely maintain these essential malaria control services.

The analysis considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic in 41 countries, and the resulting increases that may be seen in cases and deaths. 

Under the worst-case scenario, in which all insecticide-treated net (ITN) campaigns are suspended and there is a 75% reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769 000, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018. This would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen 20 years ago.

According to the World malaria report 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93% of all malaria cases and 94% of deaths in 2018. More than two-thirds of deaths were among children under the age of five.

A window of opportunity

To date, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa has represented only a small proportion of the global total, though cases are increasing every week. This means that countries across the region have a critical window of opportunity to minimize disruptions in malaria prevention and treatment and save lives at this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mass vector control campaigns should be accelerated, while ensuring that they are deployed in ways that protect health workers and communities against potential COVID-19 transmission. WHO and partners commend the leaders of Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Chad for initiating ITN campaigns during the pandemic. Other countries are adapting their net distribution strategies to ensure households receive the nets as quickly and safely as possible.

Preventive therapies for pregnant women and children must be maintained. The provision of prompt diagnostic testing and effective antimalarial medicines are also essential to prevent a mild case of malaria from progressing to severe illness and death.

WHO and partners have developed guidance to ensure that those suffering from malaria can safely receive the care they need within the package of essential health services to be delivered in COVID-19 settings. Tailoring malaria interventions in COVID-19 response includes guidance on the prevention of infection through vector control and chemoprevention, testing, treatment of cases, clinical services, supply chain and laboratory activities.

Note to the editor

The modelling analysis was conducted by WHO in close collaboration with partners, including PATH, the Malaria Atlas Project and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The analysis is subject to uncertainties. It does not consider, for example, the effects of an interruption in indoor residual spraying or seasonal malaria chemoprevention (except in Burkina Faso); a suspension of these core malaria prevention tools would also lead to considerable loss of life.

In addition, there is limited understanding of the spread of COVID-19, its epidemiology and interactions with malaria. The model will be updated as such data become available, and countries will be provided with relevant information to tailor their responses accordingly.

What matters to women in the postnatal period?

2 months 2 weeks ago
The right to a positive maternity healthcare experience at every stage 

Each pregnancy is unique and clinical needs can change across the pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal periods. One thing that never changes is the right to a positive experience at every stage. 

Achieving the best possible physical, emotional, and psychological outcomes for every individual and newborn requires health systems to take a human rights-based approach: not only preventing maternal death and morbidity, but prioritising person-centred care and well-being.

WHO is developing new guidelines for a positive experience of postnatal care, due to be published next year. To inform these guidelines and ensure that postnatal services can better meet the needs of women and their babies, WHO undertook a qualitative systematic review on what matters to women in the postnatal period.

Joys and challenges in the postnatal period

There is limited research about values and preferences in the postnatal period, defined by WHO as the first six weeks after childbirth. Studies have often focused on the results of specific postnatal interventions, rather than on the individuals who use them. 

What matters to women in the postnatal period: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies,’ published in PLOS ONE, gives long-overdue respect to the authority of women’s own experiences. The authors review first-hand data from 15 countries and 36 studies published after the year 2000 relating to women’s beliefs, expectations and values at this significant time of life.  

These studies affirm that a positive postnatal experience can result in joy, self-confidence and enhanced capacity to thrive as both a person and a parent.

They are also vocal about the potential challenges of adjusting to a ‘new normal’ following childbirth, including changes in self-identity, relationships, and sexual behaviour.

What is a positive postnatal experience? 

A positive postnatal experience for a woman will be one that responds to her specific context and preferences. 

It will provide the confidence, knowledge and skills women need in the weeks following childbirth, supporting them to adjust to any changes in their intimate relationships and build new family ones. Women will be better equipped to navigate physical and emotional challenges and to experience the dynamic achievement of personal growth. 

This should be a shared responsibility, not a solitary one. Community has a critical role in enabling a positive postnatal experience, including partners, family and elders.

It is crucial that healthcare providers meet each woman’s needs, as well as those of their babies. 

Supporting choices and rights to improve postnatal health outcomes

There are an estimated 303 000 maternal deaths annually, according to recent WHO figures. Most of these deaths occur postnatally. 

The postnatal period is therefore a vital opportunity to improve both maternal and neonatal health and wellbeing: supporting healthy behaviors, providing life-skills education, facilitating breastfeeding, counselling women about family planning options, supporting good mental health, preventing and treating childbirth-related complications. 

Health care systems that empower individuals by supporting their values, preferences and rights are fundamental to improving maternal and newborn health outcomes. 

WHO’s guidance for positive maternity care

WHO has recently released recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience, and on intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience.

These publications made important clinical updates, including an increase from four to eight recommended antenatal contacts, and a revision to the decision-making process for interventions to accelerate labour. 

They also uphold every woman’s right to a positive maternity care experience: one where her pregnancy does not erase her competency, autonomy and right to participate in decision-making for her own care and the care of her newborn. 

Women’s choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health care, including maternity care, should be respected at every stage of the continuum of maternal and newborn care. This is true across all income settings, as well as in humanitarian settings and during public health emergencies.

When WHO’s postnatal guidelines are released next year, they will complete the maternity care series built around what matters to women.

Rather than dividing care into three periods of antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal, these publications can be used to establish a model in which health systems support women, their baby and wider network physically, psychologically, socially and emotionally through this significant life event. 

Other resources

WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience 

WHO recommendations: intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience

Improving early childhood development: WHO guideline

Parenting in the time of COVID-19

Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding

Clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection when COVID-19 is suspected

Evidence on mistreatment of women during childbirth

Related topic







Joint statement by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

2 months 2 weeks ago

COVID-19 has rapidly progressed to become a global pandemic, causing unprecedented, far-reaching impact on the health, social and economic well-being of communities around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) are committed to responding effectively to the situation, working together with other international organizations and our respective memberships. Global, coordinated action is required to deal with the extraordinary challenges the pandemic poses to people’s health as well as their livelihoods. 

Protecting lives is our top priority, and these efforts can be impeded by unnecessary disruptions to global trade and supply chains. Governments’ trade policy decisions significantly influence both getting medical equipment and supplies to where they are urgently needed and catalyzing the supply of critical inputs for the production of medicines and health technologies to fight the pandemic. Keeping trade in health technologies as open and predictable as possible is therefore of vital interest. This will help countries to respond to this crisis, to recover from it and to build the health systems that will foster greater resilience in the future.

WHO and WTO are working together to support efforts to ensure the normal cross-border flow of vital medical supplies and other goods and services, promoting them where possible, and to resolve unnecessary disruptions to global supply chains, in furtherance of the International Health Regulations (2005) and WTO rules. 

The purpose of the International Health Regulations is to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with public health risks, with a view to minimizing interference with international traffic and trade. WTO rules provide governments with the flexibilities they may need to address essential medical supply shortages and/or public health challenges. But any measure taken to promote public health that restricts trade should be “targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary”, consistent with recent calls from world leaders.  Governments need to avoid measures that can disrupt supply chains and negatively impact the poorest and most vulnerable, notably in developing and least developed countries that are typically reliant on imports of medicines and medical equipment.

We call on our Members to continue to share information about their measures with WHO and WTO, in line with the established transparency mechanisms, which are now especially valuable in supporting a coordinated response. To ensure that health technologies, including diagnostics, medicines, vaccines and other medical supplies vital to treating patients infected by COVID-19, reach those in need quickly, we emphasize the importance of streamlining conformity checks based on regulatory cooperation and international standards. 

While we are heartened by the remarkable research efforts and the rapid mobilization of public and private resources to develop COVID-19 health technologies, we call upon governments to implement policy measures that can further facilitate their research and development, and to promote their rapid dissemination within countries and across borders so as to ensure equitable access to those technologies. Such initiatives include targeted investment, ensuring open access to clinical test results, the sharing of relevant intellectual property rights, increasing manufacturing capacity, open and transparent procurement regimes, the elimination of tariffs on relevant health technologies, and trade facilitation measures to reduce costs and delays.

Global action, solidarity and international cooperation are more necessary than ever to address this health situation.  WHO and the WTO are working together to play their part.​


ITU-WHO Joint Statement: Unleashing information technology to defeat COVID-19

2 months 3 weeks ago


The World Health Organization, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with support from UNICEF are set to work with telecommunication companies to text people directly on their mobile phones with vital health messaging to help protect them from COVID-19. These text messages will reach billions of people that aren’t able to connect to the internet for information.

Now more than ever, technology must ensure that everyone can access the information they need. The collaboration will start in the Asia Pacific region and then roll out globally. The goal is to reach everyone with vital health messages, whatever their connectivity level. An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with most people who are unconnected living in low-income countries, where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.

ITU and WHO call on all telecommunication companies worldwide to join this initiative to help unleash the power of communication technology to save lives from COVID-19. This initiative builds on current efforts to disseminate health messages through the joint WHO-ITU BeHealthy BeMobile initiative.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in human history where technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, productive and connected while being physically apart.

Health workers are utilizing telemedicine to diagnose patients and hospitals rely on being connected to coordinate and triage them. Resilient and trustworthy telecommunication networks and services are essential, as more countries, companies and individuals turn to digital technologies to respond to and cope with the impact of COVID-19.

Building on their longstanding collaboration, ITU and WHO are committed to identifying and scaling best evidence-based digital health solutions and to leveraging frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data to diagnose, contain and predict outbreaks better and faster. 



World Health Organization

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.

For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit and follow WHO on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTokPinterestSnapchatYouTube


International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

A specialized United Nations agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and a membership of over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Established over 150 years ago in 1865, ITU is responsible for coordinating the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promoting international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, improving communication infrastructure in the developing world, and establishing the worldwide standards that foster seamless interconnection of a vast range of communications systems. For more information, visit:



WHO guidance helps detect iron deficiency and protect brain development

2 months 3 weeks ago

Detecting iron deficiency early during pregnancy and in young children is crucial. Iron deficiency in children under two years of age can have significant and irreversible effects on brain development. This can lead to negative consequences on learning and school performance later in life. Cognitive development of a child can also be affected if a mother is iron deficient during her last trimester of pregnancy. New World Health Organization guidelines on the use of ferritin concentrations to assess iron status in individuals and populations will help health workers to detect iron deficiency early and avoid the most severe impacts. 

WHO shows how to best measure ferritin, an indicator of iron stores, to help determine iron deficiency or overload. Ferritin is a protein which can be found in small amounts circulating in a person’s blood. Ferritin levels are low in iron-deficient individuals and high in iron-loaded individuals. Accurate measurements of this protein, along with clinical and laboratory evaluation, can guide the appropriate interventions in both individual patients and at a population level.

“Reducing anemia is one of the components of our efforts to eradicate all forms of malnutrition. However, progress has been limited and we still have 614 million women and 280 million children globally who suffer from it,” said Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO. “Iron deficiency is a major determinant of anemia and measuring ferritin, a key biomarker of iron metabolism, will help us better target and evaluate our action to fight anemia”

Iron is an essential element with important functions such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis and muscle metabolism. Iron deficiency is the main cause of anaemia, which is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency worldwide, affecting 33% of non-pregnant women, 40% of pregnant women, and 42% of children worldwide.

In adults, iron deficiency can also have negative effects including fatigue, impaired physical performance and decreased work productivity, as well as impacting social activities. Iron deficiency occurs mainly when the requirements of iron increase during rapid periods of growth and development such as in early childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, but it can occur at other stages in life. In pregnant women, iron deficiency can cause anaemia, reduced birth weight and reduced gestation periods.

The new guidelines also cover the early detection of iron overload. Iron overload (accumulation of iron in the body) is generally the result of disorders such as hereditary haemochromatosis, thalassaemia, repeated blood transfusions or other conditions that affect iron absorption or regulation and can also lead to deterioration of a person’s health if left untreated.

Improved knowledge about the prevalence and distribution of iron deficiency and risk of iron overload in the population helps countries to decide on appropriate interventions, and to monitor and evaluate the impact and safety of public health programmes. For example, nutritional iron deficiency can be commonly found in populations that also have infectious diseases. The adequate evaluation of iron status in countries with infectious disorders can help countries to put in place adequate health policies.

The WHO guidelines aim to help WHO Member States and their partners to make evidence-informed decisions on appropriate actions in their efforts to lower iron deficiency and improve the health and quality of life of individuals and populations.

For interviews with WHO technical experts, please contact: Pippa HAUGHTON – [email protected] +41794466331

To access a copy of the full guidelines, please visit


Eradicating dracunculiasis: Ethiopia investigates six suspected human cases in Gambella region

2 months 3 weeks ago
In 2019, Ethiopia and Mali reported zero human cases of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease), although the total number of human cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) last year peaked at 54 cases. While surveillance activities have been stepped-up in countries reporting cases, hundreds more field workers and volunteers are being trained, and, cross-border vigilance are being carried out to prevent transmission.

Statement on the 5th meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee for Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 14 April 2020

2 months 3 weeks ago
The 5th meeting of the Emergency Committee, convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) to review the current Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), took place on Friday, 10 April 2020, from 12:30 to 14:15 Geneva time (CEST) and on Tuesday, 14 April from 12:30 to 14:05 Geneva time (CEST).

WHO Director-General’s Statement on IHR Emergency Committee on Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

2 months 3 weeks ago

The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) met today, and has advised me that in its view the Ebola outbreak in the DRC continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. I have accepted that advice.

Tremendous progress has been made containing this outbreak in very difficult circumstances. Up until Friday, 54 days had passed without a confirmed case being reported, and 40 days had passed since the last person known to have Ebola tested negative and was discharged from treatment.

Since Friday, three new cases have been confirmed - two in people who died in the community, and one person who was in contact with one of them. The source of their infection is still under investigation. It is likely that additional cases will be identified.

Flare-ups are expected at the tail-end of Ebola outbreaks. Our teams in Beni are experienced in responding to new cases, and acted quickly to engage with affected communities, investigate alerts, identify and vaccinate contacts, decontaminate affected homes and health facilities, and send samples for sequencing.

The Committee noted that armed groups are active in the area where these cases were identified, a lack of funding is constraining the response, and the COVID-19 pandemic is adding more challenges to an already complex operation.

We have to anticipate and be prepared for additional small outbreaks. We need the full force of all partners to bring these outbreaks under control and to meet the needs of the people affected. 

I thank the members of the Committee for their advice. And I thank the government and people of DRC, the responders, partners and WHO colleagues, who are dedicated to ending this outbreak. 

Corporate news releases, statements, and notes for media issued by the World Health Organization.