Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in Geneva October 18, 2021. POOL/ REUTERS
Building a more efficient and equitable global health system: The 194 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) meet on Sunday, May 22 in Geneva for the 75th World Health Assembly in a context complicated by conflict, inequalities, the climate crisis and pandemics.
A resolution brought by Ukraine must denounce in particular the attacks carried out by Moscow on the health system, but also condemn the extremely serious consequences of the invasion and blockade of Ukrainian ports for world supplies and the explosion in grain prices. “The war in Ukraine has a systemic impact on international organizations, as it requires a lot of time to deal with the Russian question in organizations and the decrease in health consequences in Ukraine, Europe and the world. », Explains a European diplomat .
A balance must also be struck, as many countries believe Ukraine’s allies are using double standards and neglecting other crises. For these countries, health cooperation is a separate area that must be preserved.
Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We need peace for health and health for peace”
On the Russian side, the embassy in Geneva wanted to nip the information in the bud that Moscow was preparing to leave the organization. “Rumours that Russia will withdraw from the WHO are simply false,” hammered out a tweet, interrupted by a giant exclamation point.
Ensuring sustainable funding for WHO
The reappointment of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for five years comes despite the problems that marked his first term, such as his attitude towards China, which was seen as too forgiving at the beginning of Covid-19, and too slow a response to the scandal of sexual exploitation of certain employees. But without rivals and with the support of the organization’s heavyweights, WHO’s first African Director-General will be able to continue his work. “We confidently expect a very strong commitment from him for the further management of the pandemic, but also for the very large project of global health care reform,” emphasizes the European diplomat.
Also read article reserved for our Covid-19 subscribers: China accused of obstructing WHO mission in Wuhan
From Monday, health ministers are expected to join the podium for this first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic and discuss sustainable funding for the WHO. The organization only has a two-year budget of around $6 billion. For comparison: the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris has a little less than 8 billion euros per year.
The problem arises from the fixed contributions: the compulsory contributions of the members, which in 2020-2021 represent only 16% of the total. The rest – voluntary contributions – are more difficult to plan, require energy and are often assigned to a specific task. The proportion of compulsory contributions is to be gradually increased to 50% over a period of ten years, to enable WHO to play its role better, but not without reforming itself in return. “It will be important for the WHO to implement the reforms quickly” so that the decisions on sustainable funding can apply, warned Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the Ambassador of the United States.
Respond more effectively to health emergencies
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed what is not working in the global health system. The Assembly will therefore address the maintenance of the International Health Regulations (IHR) to enable a more effective and expeditious response to health emergencies.
In the same way, the Assembly should decide to set up a Standing Committee on Emergencies, emanating from the Executive Board of the WHO and capable of being activated within 24 hours in the event of a health emergency of international concern, that is, at the highest level of WHO, of alarm.
At the same time, work began on a new international agreement on global health, which would be binding on its supporters and could complement the RSI. An intergovernmental negotiating group was set up in December to work on this. Indeed, cases of monkeypox — a disease endemic to parts of Africa — are spreading across North America and Europe, and while most cases are currently mild, the spectrum of a new major crisis is worrying public health officials.