Record Attendance, Agenda Open WHO Board Meeting; Global Vision On Infectious Disease 25/01/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Response to diseases outbreaks must be changed at the World Health Organization, Director General Margaret Chan told the opening of the Executive Board meeting today. She also called for universal health coverage and the implementation of the international health regulation, and for action in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Opening the WHO Executive Board (EB) meeting, Chair Precious Matsoso, director-general of the National Department of Health of South Africa, said it was an historic session, firstly because it was welcoming over 1,000 participants, making it the most well-attended session ever, and because of a record number of agenda items. Fight Against Ebola Monumental Achievement, Chan Says In her report, Chan said that a “monumental achievement” has been achieved in the fight against Ebola, with the three stricken countries (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) having interrupted all chains of transmission from the original outbreak which began over two years ago. However, she said, WHO has not yet declared the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa over, as the virus has the ability to hide in the bodies of fully recovered survivors for as long as a year. She said vigilance in those countries is intense, they now have “the world’s largest pool of expertise” and a “thanks to a WHO-led clinical trial, we have a vaccine that can be used to confer a back-up right of protection.” She mentioned other disease outbreaks, such as the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) in the Republic of Korea last year, and the current alleged causal link between infection with the Zika virus (a mosquito-born virus) in pregnancy and microcephaly. Response to Outbreaks As indicated at the last World Health Assembly, Chan said she intends to create a new programme for responding to outbreaks and humanitarian emergencies. In July, she appointed a group of experts to advise her on “the programme’s functions, structure, administration and lines of managerial accountability,” according to her statement. The group held eight meetings, and delivered its final report last week, she said. The experts “called for profound transformational changes in the way we respond to outbreaks and emergencies.” “Let me reassure you, our Member States, that the Regional Directors and I are determined to change the way we respond to outbreaks and emergencies. The lessons from Ebola must be applied,” said Chan. “We are committed to implementing a single programme, with a single line of accountability, a single budget, a single set of business processes, a single cadre of staff, and a single set of performance benchmarks that cut across the three levels of WHO [country offices, regional offices and headquarters],” she explained. She underlined health needs of population displaced by armed conflicts and deplored the attacks on health care workers and facilities “that are becoming almost routine in the Middle East, including the recent bombing of a polio vaccination centre in Pakistan.” She also condemned siege tactics, which force civilians to starve, asking, “Has the world lost its moral compass?” The world is profoundly interconnected, she said, so “…there is no such thing as a local outbreak. There is no such thing as a faraway war.” Universal Health Coverage, SDGs Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focuses on health, she said, although many other goals and targets address the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health.” Universal health coverage is the most efficient way to respond to the rise of non-communicable diseases, she said, and is an instrument for improving the resilience of health systems. Universal health coverage is “the priority dearest to my heart,” she said. This includes access to safe and effective medicines, an adequate health workforce, finding ways to make health products more affordable, she said. The SDG, she said, “calls for stronger country offices, a firm emphasis on innovation, and greater collaboration with partners and multiple sectors of government.” Research and development of new medicines, in particular those affecting primarily developing countries, and the relationship of the WHO with non-governmental organisations, philanthropic organisations, and the private sector (collectively, “non-state actors”) are on the agenda to be discussed this week (IPW, WHO, 21 January 2016). International Health Regulations, Antimicrobial Resistance Many countries, Chan said, lack the capacity to implement the International Health Regulations, and “must be supported to build IHR core capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks.” “Antimicrobial resistance is a danger of the utmost urgency,” she said. “We have a global action plan. What we need now is the action.” A top priority, she said, is to engage ministers responsible for agriculture and food, and added that the issue will be examined during next month’s European Union ministerial conference on antimicrobial resistance in Amsterdam. Countries Stress Need for Reform in Emergency Response, Access to Drugs Among the issues cited by countries in their opening statements were the importance of the issue of antimicrobial resistance, the need for implementation of the IHR and the strengthening of health system to give a better response to disease outbreaks. Also mentioned by some countries was the issue of the relationship of WHO with non-state actors, with the United States saying that it is important to ensure that WHO can engage robustly with non-state actors, and Canada concurring. The US also said the WHO “must attract top global health talents” in a system which reward accomplishment. The US underlined the fact that if there is no reform in the organisation, alternatives will be sought by different partners. Some countries asked that local production of medicines in developing countries be supported, such as Eritrea, speaking on behalf of the African region. Eritrea said countries should be supported in making use of the flexibilities included in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). India called for a global research and development network. The United Kingdom and the US asked that WHO delivers on a single programme and on a single budget for emergencies. New Zealand said countries know and have known what they have to do. Underlining the “largest EB agenda ever,” the delegate said, “we have to change.” It is time to stop talking and start acting collaboratively, he said. Algeria also called for action, and for strengthening capacities in country offices. Regional offices, the delegate said, can play a crucial role of coordination. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Record Attendance, Agenda Open WHO Board Meeting; Global Vision On Infectious Disease" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.