World Health Assembly opens, health leaders chart course for COVID-19 response

The virtual session of the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) started on Monday in Geneva, with health leaders charting a course for COVID-19 and global health priorities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) made this known in a statement posted on its website.

According to the UN health agency, there are three messages to share to WHA, the decision-making body of WHO.

“First, we can beat COVID-19 with science, solutions and solidarity.

“More than 47 million COVID-19 cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 1.2 million people have lost their lives.

“Although this is a global crisis, many countries and cities have successfully prevented or controlled transmission with a comprehensive, evidence-based approach.

“For the first time, the world has rallied behind a plan to accelerate the development of the vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics we need, and to ensure they are available to all countries on the basis of equity.

“The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is delivering real results.’’

Second, the statement said that countries should not backslide on critical health goals.

It said that the COVID-19 pandemic was a sobering reminder that health was the foundation of social, economic and political stability.

“It reminds us why WHO’s ‘triple billion’ targets are so important, and why countries must pursue them with even more determination, collaboration and innovation.

“Since May, Member States have adopted a number of decisions – the Immunisation Agenda 2030 and the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030.

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“It has also adopted initiatives to tackle cervical cancer, tuberculosis, eye care, food safety, intellectual property and influenza preparedness.

“The resumed session will discuss a 10-year-plan for addressing neglected tropical diseases, as well as efforts to address meningitis, epilepsy and other neurological disorders, maternal infant and young child nutrition and digital health.

“The WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel adopted in 2010.’’

Third, it added that countries should prepare for the next pandemic now.

“We have seen this past year that countries with robust health emergency preparedness infrastructure have been able to act quickly to contain and control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

“The WHA will consider a draft resolution (EB146.R10) that strengthens Member States’ preparedness for health emergencies such as COVID-19 through more robust compliance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

“This resolution calls on the global health community to ensure that all countries are better equipped to detect and respond to cases of COVID-19 and other dangerous infectious diseases,’’ it said.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision-making body of WHO, and it’s being attended by delegations from all WHO Member States.

The main functions of the WHA are to determine the policies of the Organisation, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

The WHA usually takes place in May. This year, given the COVID-19 pandemic, a reduced (de minimis) WHA took place between May 18 and May 19.

The resumed WHA73 is holding virtually from Nov. 9 to Nov. 14.



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