When stakeholders gather on Monday to kick off the 74th session of the World Health Assembly, the World Health Organisation’s highest decision-making body, the focus will be on how to achieve global health security and pandemic preparedness.
The global health organisation said participants will brainstorm on how to urgently find innovative solutions to end the biting coronavirus pandemic and work towards averting similar outbreak anytime soon.
About this year’s assembly
Annually, delegations from all around the world converge to discuss how to tackle several health challenges facing the universe.
The event, which is also open to associate members, observers, invited representatives of the United Nations and other participating inter-governmental organisations, and non-state actors, is usually held physically.
However, following the seemingly unending scourge of the pandemic, this year’s event, which is billed to hold between May 24 and June, will hold virtually.
Speaking ahead of the event, the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said; “A crisis often brings out the best in people and organisations. From the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan to our technical guidance, the Solidarity Trial, the UN Supply Chain Task Force, the OpenWHO.org learning platform and initiatives like the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, including its COVAX partnership and the Solidarity Response Fund, WHO has given countries effective and evidence-informed tools to prevent infections, save lives and maintain essential health services.”
He, however, noted that the pandemic is far from over and the global response is at a critical phase.
According to the WHO chief, this was why ending the pandemic and helping countries recover was made the focal point of this year’s gathering.
The pandemic took the world by surprise, revealing a global failure to invest in pandemic preparedness. Scientists that are looked upon to find a cure had little time and a lesser margin for error.
Despite a global effort to curb the spread of the disease including the development of life-saving vaccines at record time and several safety measures, many nations including India, Germany and the U.S. are still nowhere out of the woods with fast spreading new variants of the disease.
The latest global resurgence of infections is currently threatening vaccination efforts across the globe and further exposes inequalities in distribution.
According to WHO, over 75 per cent of the doses have been administered in only 10 countries while the low-income nations have dispensed less than half a per cent of global vaccines.
As of Sunday afternoon, about 167,058,502 infections have been recorded across the globe leading to the death of 3,468,938 people.
What to expect from 74th WHA
During the week, WHO issued a statement on major discussions and deliberations to expect from the event.
A high-level segment would be held at the commencement of the event on Monday with participation from Heads of State and Government and special guests in addition to an address by the WHO DG.
Three reports on COVID-19 response will be presented at the Assembly: the Health Emergencies Programme’s Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee (IOAC), the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and the Review Committee on the Functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) during the COVID-19 Response.
According to WHO, the assembly’s agenda would focus on the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and WHO’s Triple Billion targets of one billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage, one billion better protected from health emergencies and one billion enjoying better health and well-being.
WHO’s report would also be presented during the meeting.
Other highlights to expect include: Proposed programme budget 2022–2023; WHO’s work in Health Emergencies, the COVID-19 response, including mental health; preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic; Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property; Global action on patient safety; WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change; Non communicable diseases; Antimicrobial resistance; Immunisation Agenda 2030; Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery; Poliomyelitis; and WHO transformation.
“This year’s World Health Assembly will play a vital role in shaping the global health architecture of the future and strengthening WHO to fulfil its mission and mandate”, Ghebreyesus said.
The Assembly will be webcast live with interpretation in the WHO’s six official languages, and the global body has said proceedings can be followed here.