The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that world was ill-prepared to deal with global health emergencies and highlights the need to further strengthen the WHO to better respond to public health emergencies such as a pandemic. The COVID-19 and other major disease outbreaks, as well as continuing humanitarian situations, also emphasize the importance for a stronger collective and coordinated approach to preparedness and response to health emergencies.
During the recently held World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, the world nations agreed to meet again in November, at a special session of the WHA, to consider developing a WHO global agreement.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said that “We need a generational commitment that outlives budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles, that creates an overarching framework for connecting the political, financial and technical mechanisms needed for strengthening global health security,” he said. Such a treaty would “foster improved sharing, trust and accountability, and provide the solid foundation on which to build other mechanisms for global health security.”
A Resolution was also agreed by the WHA, reaffirming WHO’s role as the directing and coordinating authority in health during emergencies and beyond, and to aid governments towards achieving resilient health systems and universal health coverage. The Resolution recommends the WHO to strengthen its work by convening a Member States’ Working Group on Strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies, open to all Member States and to review recommendations from the various reports received at the WHA Assembly. The Working Group is asked to report back at next year’s Assembly.
The Resolution also calls for the provision of sustainable financing to WHO by the member States, while continuing their response to the pandemic and strengthening preparedness capacities, including strengthening their workforce, research activities, surveillance systems, while adopting a One Health Approach; while continuing to work in a spirit of global cooperation, sharing reliable information, countering infodemics and stigmatization; and ensuring response efforts do not exacerbate other health challenges. The Director-General thanked Member States for approving this “historic resolution,” and their support for a strengthened WHO.
The WPA applauds the passing of the resolution by the WHA and reemphasis the need for a collaborative approach to deal with the pandemic as per WPA’s Position Statement on Covid-19. The health systems must work in collaboration with patients & communities and other stakeholders to overcome this global crisis. The WPA calls for the governments and healthcare systems around the world to put in place effective strategies to ensure that all patients and communities have access to appropriate diagnostic, preventive and treatment services including Covid-19 vaccines. The WHO and the UN must also ensure that there are global collaborative efforts for equal and immediate access of Covid-19 vaccine to all the people of the world without financial hardship. The high-risk individuals such as patients with pre-existing medical conditions, like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, elderly and other vulnerable groups should be given special attention and access to appropriate services.