World Health Organization

Global childhood immunization levels stalled in 2023, leaving many without life-saving protection

WHO news - Mon, 07/15/2024 - 02:53

Global childhood immunization coverage stalled in 2023, leaving 2.7 million additional children un- and under-vaccinated compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to data published today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The latest WHO and UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC) – which provide the world’s largest and most comprehensive dataset on immunization trends for vaccinations against 14 diseases – underscore the need for ongoing catch-up, recovery and system-strengthening efforts.

“The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Closing the immunization gap requires a global effort, with governments, partners, and local leaders investing in primary healthcare and community workers to ensure every child gets vaccinated, and that overall healthcare is strengthened.”

According to the findings, the number of children who received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) in 2023 – a key marker for global immunization coverage – stalled at 84% (108 million). However, the number of children who did not receive a single dose of the vaccine increased from 13.9 million in 2022 to 14.5 million in 2023.

More than half of unvaccinated children live in the 31 countries with fragile, conflict-affected and vulnerable settings, where children are especially vulnerable to preventable diseases because of disruptions and lack of access to security, nutrition, and health services.

Additionally, 6.5 million children did not complete their third dose of the DTP vaccine, which is necessary to achieve disease protection in infancy and early childhood.

These trends, which show that global immunization coverage has remained largely unchanged since 2022 and – more alarmingly – has still not returned to 2019 levels, reflect ongoing challenges with disruptions in healthcare services, logistical challenges, vaccine hesitancy and inequities in access to services.

Low vaccine coverage already driving measles outbreaks

The data further show that vaccination rates against the deadly measles disease stalled, leaving nearly 35 million children with no or only partial protection.

In 2023, only 83% of children worldwide received their first dose of the measles vaccine through routine health services, while the number of children receiving their second dose modestly increased from the previous year, reaching 74% of children. These figures fall short of the 95% coverage needed to prevent outbreaks, avert unnecessary disease and deaths, and achieve measles elimination goals.

Over the last five years, measles outbreaks hit 103 countries – home to roughly three-quarters of the world’s infants. Low vaccine coverage (80% or less) was a major factor. In contrast, 91 countries with strong measles vaccine coverage did not experience outbreaks.

“Measles outbreaks are the canary in the coalmine, exposing and exploiting gaps in immunization and hitting the most vulnerable first,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a solvable problem. Measles vaccine is cheap and can be delivered even in the most difficult places. WHO is committed to working with all our partners to support countries to close these gaps and protect the most at-risk children as quickly as possible.”

Global HPV vaccine coverage among girls increased substantially

The new data also highlight some brighter spots in immunization coverage. The steady introduction of new and under-utilized vaccines, including for human papillomavirus (HPV), meningitis, pneumococcal, polio and rotavirus disease, continue to expand the breadth of protection, particularly in the 57 countries supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.  

For example, the share of adolescent girls globally who received at least 1 dose of the HPV vaccine, which provides protection against cervical cancer, increased from 20% in 2022 to 27% in 2023. This was largely driven by strong introductions in Gavi-supported countries, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nigeria. The use of the single-dose HPV vaccine schedule also helped boost vaccine coverage.

"The HPV vaccine is one of the most impactful vaccines in Gavi’s portfolio, and it is incredibly heartening that it is now reaching more girls than ever before,” said Dr Sania Nishtar, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “With vaccines now available to over 50% of eligible girls in African countries, we have much work to be done, but today we can see we have a clear pathway to eliminating this terrible disease.”  

However, HPV vaccine coverage is well below the 90% target to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, reaching only 56% of adolescent girls in high-income countries and 23% in low- and middle-income countries. 

A recent poll of over 400 000 users of UNICEF’s digital platform for young people, U-Report, revealed that over 75% are unaware or unsure of what HPV is, underscoring the need for better vaccine accessibility and public awareness. When informed about the virus, its link to cancers, and the existence of a vaccine, 52% of respondents indicated they want to receive the HPV vaccine but are hindered by financial constraints (41%) and lack of availability (34%).

Robust local action needed to reach everyone, everywhere with vaccines

While there’s been modest progress in some regions, including the African region and low-income countries, the latest estimates highlight the need to accelerate efforts to meet the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) targets of 90% coverage, and no more than 6.5 million ‘zero-dose’ children globally by 2030.

The IA2030 Partnership Council calls for increased investment in innovation and ongoing collaboration. The council also recommends partners step up their support for country leadership to improve routine immunization as part of their integrated primary health care programmes, backed by robust political support, community leadership, and sustainable funding.   

 

 

Notes to editorsAbout the data

Based on country-reported data, the WHO and UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC) provide the world’s largest and most comprehensive dataset on immunization trends for vaccinations against 14 diseases given through regular health systems - normally at clinics, community centres, outreach services, or health worker visits. For 2023, data were provided from 185 countries.

About the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030)

The IA2030 is a global strategy endorsed by the World Health Assembly aiming to ensure everyone, everywhere, at every age benefits from vaccines for improved health and well-being by 2030. It focuses on increasing vaccine coverage, equity, sustainability and pandemic preparedness while promoting life-course immunization and integrating immunization with other health services.

About WHO

Dedicated to the health and well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere, an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations – leading the world’s response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. 

About UNICEF UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org Follow UNICEF on TwitterFacebookInstagram and YouTube.

 

WHO launches unique training course to enable parliamentarians in global health security

WHO news - Fri, 07/12/2024 - 18:17
The World Health Organization has released "The Role of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in Strengthening Health Security Preparedness", an online training course. This essential resource aims to equip parliamentarians with the knowledge and tools necessary to enhance global health security efforts.

WHO prequalifies the first self-test for hepatitis C virus

WHO news - Wed, 07/10/2024 - 12:29
The World Health Organization (WHO) has prequalified the first hepatitis C virus (HCV) self-test which can provide a critical support in expanding access to testing and diagnosis, accelerating global efforts to eliminate hepatitis C.

MeDevIS platform announced to boost access to medical technologies and devices

WHO news - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 11:37

World Health Organization (WHO) has introduced an online platform called MeDevIS (Medical Devices Information System), the first global open access clearing house for information on medical devices. It is designed to support governments, regulators and users in their decision-making on selection, procurement and use of medical devices for diagnostics, testing and treatment of diseases and health conditions.

The MeDevIS platform includes 2301 types of medical devices used for a broad-ranging health issues, including reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes as well as infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

“The number of medical technologies used in health care is growing, as is their complexity, which can make it challenging for health care practitioners and patients to navigate,” said Dr Yukiko Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. “We aim to provide a one stop shop of international information, which can be invaluable for those making decisions on life-saving medical technologies, especially in resource-limited settings, and to improve access”.

There are over 10 000 different medical devices that are being used for protection, prevention, diagnostics, treatment or rehabilitation of health issues globally. These include multiple simple and complex medical technologies ranging from pulse oximeters, digital thermometers, single-use syringes and medical masks to various diagnostic laboratory tests and other medical equipment including electrocardiograms, endoscopes, all imaging radiology technologies, and technologies used for treatments such as hemodialysis units and defibrillators, implantable prothesis, cardiac stents and complex radiotherapy equipment.

However, currently there are multiple, separate sources of information produced by major international organizations, regulatory bodies, and donor agencies, making it difficult for users to discern and utilize the most reliable data. In MeDevIS, users can check devices they require, including type, level of health care systems to support the device (such as community or specialized hospitals), scope of the device, and infrastructure required, among other categories.

MeDevIS replaces paper-based literature search across multiple publications with non-standard device names which can add to the complexity. Along with providing a single platform, MedevIS also aims to help make the naming of the medical devices simpler.

MeDevIS references two international naming systems for medical devices - the European Medical Device Nomenclature (EMDN), mostly used in European countries for registration in the European database, and the Global Medical Device Nomenclature (GMDN) used in regulatory agencies in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA and other Member States. The naming systems include coding and definitions and can be used in every country to facilitate registration for regulatory approval, procurement and supply, inventories in health facilities, tracking and pricing.

“The MeDevIS platform can be useful for national policy-makers to develop or update their own national lists for procurement of health technologies and devices and can contribute to the progress towards universal health coverage,” said Dr Deus Mubangizi, WHO Director for Health Products Policy and Standards in the Access to Medicines and Health Products Division. “It can also help agencies in health insurance and reimbursement policies for patients.”

This is the first time WHO has developed such a global repository on medical devices, based on its experience with the WHO Priority Medical Devices List (MDL), which itself was based on the experience of creating the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML). Approaching its 50th anniversary in 2025, EML is regarded as a pillar of public health in countries across the world, supporting health progress and touching billions of lives.

WHO will be continually improving the MeDevIS platform, engaging multiple stakeholders and partners and expanding it with additional technologies and devices used in various health areas, including in pandemic and emergency settings.

Note to Editors:

The MeDevIS platform became operational in March 2024 for the purpose of consultation with WHO Member States. Following the consultation, it is being publicly released via an online webinar “Nomenclature of medical devices: EMDN & GMDN” on 8 July 2024 at 14:00-15:00 CEST.


WHO updates laboratory biosecurity guidance

WHO news - Thu, 07/04/2024 - 12:28

WHO recently issued updated guidance for national authorities and biomedical laboratories to manage biological risks.

Laboratories are essential components of health systems, critical for patient diagnosis and rapid clinical care, disease surveillance, pathogen characterization, and research and development for treatments and vaccines. Appropriately designed and equipped facilities, trained staff, evidence-based risk mitigating measures, transparent reporting and layered oversight mechanisms will safeguard the workforce and the community from pathogenic microorganisms and toxins.

New updates in the guidance include the strengthening of cybersecurity measures and handling of confidential information such as patient records; reducing risks from new technologies, including those related to genetic modification and manipulation of pathogens, and artificial intelligence (AI); and advice on keeping laboratories safe and secure during emergencies like wars, civil unrest, and disasters from natural hazards.

WHO’s updated laboratory biosecurity guidance helps all countries, especially those lacking regulations, establish or strengthen frameworks for handling high-consequence pathogens. It highlights the importance of strong institutional governance through an Institutional Biosafety Committee with national oversight.

The updated guidance provides best practices and recommendations, while encouraging Member States to adopt a risk-based approach, stipulated in the resolution on ‘Strengthening laboratory biological risk management’ adopted at the World Health Assembly this year.

The guidance was developed in consultation with wide range of stakeholders including WHO collaborating centres and technical advisory groups, in particular, the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Biosafety (TAG-B).  

By promoting engagement and commitment from institutions and national authorities, the guidance mitigates risks associated with high-consequence pathogens and research work. These measures aim to safeguard communities from misuse and release of biological materials, be it intentional or inadvertent, all while allowing legitimate biomedical research to continue.

 

WHO releases first-ever clinical treatment guideline for tobacco cessation in adults

WHO news - Mon, 07/01/2024 - 23:42

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a comprehensive set of tobacco cessation interventions, including behavioural support delivered by health-care providers, digital cessation interventions and pharmacological treatments in a first guideline on tobacco cessation.

The guideline focuses on helping the more than 750 million tobacco users who want to quit all forms of tobacco. The recommendations are relevant for all adults seeking to quit various tobacco products, including cigarettes, waterpipes, smokeless tobacco products, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco, and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

“This guideline marks a crucial milestone in our global battle against these dangerous products," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "It empowers countries with the essential tools to effectively support individuals in quitting tobacco and alleviate the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.”

Over 60% of the world's 1.25 billion tobacco users – more than 750 million people – wish to quit, yet 70% lack access to effective cessation services. This gap exists due to challenges faced by health systems, including resource limitations.

“The immense struggle that people face when trying to quit smoking cannot be overstated. We need to deeply appreciate the strength it takes and the suffering endured by individuals and their loved ones to overcome this addiction,” said Dr Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO. ”These guidelines are designed to help communities and governments provide the best possible support and assistance for those on this challenging journey.”

Effective therapies for quitting tobacco

Combining pharmacotherapy with behavioural interventions significantly increases quitting success rates. Countries are encouraged to provide these treatments at no or reduced cost to improve accessibility, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

WHO recommends varenicline, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), bupropion, and cytisine as effective treatments for tobacco cessation.

In 2023, WHO initiated a prequalification procedure for medicinal products against disorders caused by tobacco use to improve global access to recommended tobacco cessation medications. In April 2024, Kenvue’s nicotine gum and patch became the first WHO-prequalified NRT products.

WHO recommends behavioural interventions, including brief health worker counselling (30 seconds to 3 minutes) offered routinely in health-care settings, alongside more intensive behavioural support (individual, group, or phone counselling) for interested users. Additionally, digital interventions such as text messaging, smartphone apps, and internet programmes can be used as adjuncts or self-management tools.

WHO encourages health-care providers, policy-makers, and stakeholders to adopt and implement this guideline to promote tobacco cessation and improve the health of millions of people in need worldwide.

Nearly 1.8 billion adults at risk of disease from not doing enough physical activity

WHO news - Tue, 06/25/2024 - 19:32

New data show that nearly one third (31%) of adults worldwide, approximately 1.8 billion people, did not meet the recommended levels of physical activity in 2022. The findings point to a worrying trend of physical inactivity among adults, which has increased by about 5 percentage points between 2010 and 2022. 

If the trend continues, levels of inactivity are projected to further rise to 35% by 2030, and the world is currently off track from meeting the global target to reduce physical inactivity by 2030. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults have 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or equivalent, per week. Physical inactivity puts adults at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers such as breast and colon.

The study was undertaken by researchers from WHO together with academic colleagues and published in The Lancet Global Health journal.

"These new findings highlight a lost opportunity to reduce cancer and heart disease, and to improve mental well-being through increased physical activity," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "We must renew our commitments to increasing levels of physical activity and prioritize bold action, including strengthened policies and increased funding, to reverse this worrying trend.”

The highest rates of physical inactivity were observed in the high-income Asia Pacific region (48%) and South Asia (45%), with levels of inactivity in other regions ranging from 28% in high-income Western countries to 14% in Oceania.

Of concern, disparities remain between gender and age. Physical inactivity is still more common among women globally compared with men, with inactivity rates of 34% compared to 29%. In some countries, this difference is as much as 20 percentage points. Additionally, people over 60 are less active than other adults, underscoring the importance of promoting physical activity for older adults.

“Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health, contributing significantly to the burden of chronic diseases,” said Dr Rüdiger Krech, Director of Health Promotion at WHO. “We need to find innovative ways to motivate people to be more active, considering factors like age, environment, and cultural background. By making physical activity accessible, affordable, and enjoyable for all, we can significantly reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases and create a population that is healthier and more productive.”

Despite the worrying results, there are some signs of improvement in some countries. The study showed that almost half of the world’s countries have made some improvements over the past decade, and 22 countries were identified as likely to reach the global target of reducing inactivity by 15% by 2030, if their trend continues at the same pace.

In light of these findings, WHO is calling on countries to strengthen their policy implementation to promote and enable physical activity through grassroots and community sport and active recreation and transport (walking, cycling and use of public transport), among other measures.

“Promoting physical activity goes beyond promoting individual lifestyle choice – it will require a whole-of-society approach and creating environments that make it easier and safer for everyone to be more active in ways they enjoy to reap the many health benefits of regular physical activity,” said Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO Unit for Physical Activity.

Collective efforts based on partnerships between government and nongovernmental stakeholders and increased investments in innovative approaches will be needed to reach the least active people and to reduce inequalities in access to measures promoting and improving physical activity.

 

Over 3 million annual deaths due to alcohol and drug use, majority among men

WHO news - Tue, 06/25/2024 - 14:37
A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that 2.6 million deaths per year were attributable to alcohol consumption, accounting for 4.7% of all deaths in that year, and 0.6 million deaths –to psychoactive drug use. Notably, 2 million of alcohol- and 0.4 million of drug-attributable deaths were among men.

WHO issues warning on falsified medicines used for diabetes treatment and weight loss

WHO news - Thu, 06/20/2024 - 15:46
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a medical product alert on falsified semaglutides, the type of medicines that are used for treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity in some countries.

Chad eliminates human African trypanosomiasis as a public health problem

WHO news - Wed, 06/19/2024 - 16:02
The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates Chad for having eliminated the gambiense form of human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, as a public health problem. It marks the first neglected tropical disease to be eliminated in the country.

WHO concerned about escalating health crisis in West Bank

WHO news - Fri, 06/14/2024 - 22:24

WHO remains concerned about the escalating health crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, where attacks on health infrastructure and increased restrictions on movement are obstructing access to health care. 

A spike in violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the war in Gaza started has resulted in the deaths of 521 Palestinians, including 126 children between 7 October 2023 and 10 June 2024. In addition, over 5200 people, 800 of them children, have been injured, adding to the growing burden of trauma and emergency care at already strained health facilities.

As of 28 May, WHO has documented 480 attacks on health care in the West Bank since 7 October 2023, resulting in 16 deaths and 95 injuries. The attacks affected 54 health facilities, 20 mobile clinics and 319 ambulances. Fifty-nine percent of the attacks occurred in the cities of Tulkarem, Jenin and Nablus. They include attacks on health infrastructure and ambulances, detention of health workers and patients, obstruction of their access to health facilities, use of force on health workers and militarized searches of ambulances and staff.

The closure of checkpoints, arbitrary obstructions, and detentions of health workers, rising insecurity, as well as the siege and closure of entire towns and communities has made movement within the West Bank increasingly restricted, impeding access to health facilities. Extensive infrastructure and housing damage, particularly in the northern West Bank, have compounded the situation by obstructing access for ambulances and first-aid responders. 

The long-standing fiscal crisis faced by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is further impacting the health system and has been worsened by Israel’s increased withholding of tax revenues meant for the occupied Palestinian territory since 7 October, and the overall deterioration of the economic situation in occupied Palestinian territory. The impact of the financial situation on health service delivery is significant – with health workers receiving only half of their salary for nearly a year and 45% of essential medications being out of stock.  In most areas of the West Bank, primary care clinics and outpatient specialty clinics are now operating two days per week, and hospitals are operating at approximately 70% capacity.

Between October 2023 and May 2024, 44% of 28 292 applications for patients to seek medical care outside the West Bank, in East Jerusalem or Israeli health facilities, have been denied or remain pending with access being mainly granted to cancer, dialysis and other lifesaving cases. In the same period, 48% of the 26 562 companion permit applications have been denied or remain pending.

A comparison between October 2022–May 2023 and October 2023–May 2024 shows a 56% decrease in the West Bank patient permit applications and 22% decrease in approvals, and a 63% decrease in companion permit applications and a 24% decrease in approvals. Prior to October 2023, over 300 patients required permits daily to cross from the West Bank to east Jerusalem and Israeli health facilities.

WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health with procurement of essential medications as well as with technical assistance to address some of the policies and procedures that contribute to the fiscal crisis in health. Additionally, WHO has pre-positioned supplies at key hospitals across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and conducted community trauma management training for first aid responders in the affected communities to boost emergency preparedness, but worsening insecurity and accessibility for emergency health workers and field volunteers to reach the injured, combined with the ongoing strict curfews, pose significant risks to the health system and make it very difficult for responders to reach those in need of urgent care.

WHO calls for the immediate and active protection of civilians and health care in the West Bank. International humanitarian law must be respected, which means the sanctity of health care must be observed at all times. 

WHO releases report on state of development of antibacterials

WHO news - Fri, 06/14/2024 - 10:09

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released its latest report on antibacterial agents, including antibiotics, in clinical and preclinical development worldwide. Although the number of antibacterial agents in the clinical pipeline increased from 80 in 2021 to 97 in 2023, there is a pressing need for new, innovative agents for serious infections and to replace those becoming ineffective due to widespread use.

First released in 2017, this annual report evaluates whether the current research and development (R&D) pipeline properly addresses infections caused by the drug-resistant bacteria most threatening to human health, as detailed in the 2024 WHO bacterial priority pathogen list (BPPL). Both documents aim to steer antibacterial R&D to better counter the ever-growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites no longer respond to medicines, making people sicker and increasing the risk of spread of infections that are difficult to treat, illness and deaths. AMR is driven largely by the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials, yet, at the same time, many people around the world do not have access to essential antimicrobial medicines.

“Antimicrobial resistance is only getting worse yet we’re not developing new trailblazing products fast enough to combat the most dangerous and deadly bacteria,” said Dr Yukiko Nakatani, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance ad interim. “Innovation is badly lacking yet, even when new products are authorized, access is a serious challenge. Antibacterial agents are simply not reaching the patients who desperately need them, in countries of all income levels."

Not only are there too few antibacterials in the pipeline, given how long is needed for R&D and the likelihood of failure, there is also not enough innovation. Of the 32 antibiotics under development to address BPPL infections, only 12 can be considered innovative. Furthermore, just 4 of these 12 are active against at least 1 WHO ‘critical’ pathogen – critical being the BPPL’s top risk category, over ‘high’ and ‘medium’ priority. There are gaps across the entire pipeline, including in products for children, oral formulations more convenient for outpatients, and agents to tackle rising drug resistance.

Encouragingly, non-traditional biological agents, such as bacteriophages, antibodies, anti-virulence agents, immune-modulating agents and microbiome-modulating agents, are increasingly being explored as complements and alternatives to antibiotics. However, studying and regulating non-traditional agents is not straightforward. Further efforts are needed to facilitate clinical studies and assessments of these products, to help determine when and how to use these agents clinically.

Looking at newly approved antibacterials, since 1 July 2017, 13 new antibiotics have obtained marketing authorization but only 2 represent a new chemical class and can be termed innovative, underscoring the scientific and technical challenge in discovering novel antibacterials that are both effective against bacteria and safe for humans.

In addition, 3 non-traditional agents have been authorized, all are faecal-based products for restoring the gut microbiota, to prevent recurrent Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI) following antibiotic treatment in adults.

The preclinical pipeline is active and innovative, with many non-traditional approaches, as part of a stable number of preclinical candidates over the last 4 years. Its focus remains Gram-negative pathogens, which are resistant to last-resort antibiotics. Gram-negative bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug resistant as well.

The shift towards antibacterial agents targeting a single pathogen appears to have plateaued. Agents targeting a single pathogen increase the need for widely available and affordably priced rapid diagnostics, to ensure the relevant bacteria are present in the infections to be treated.

Greater transparency in the pipeline would: facilitate collaboration around potentially innovative but challenging projects, help scientists and drug developers, and generate more interest and funding for drug development for novel antibacterial agents.

Efforts to develop new antibacterial agents need to be accompanied by parallel efforts to ensure they can be equitably accessed, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Universal access to quality and affordable tools for preventing, diagnosing and treating infections is key to mitigating AMR’s impact on public health and the economy, as per WHO’s Strategic and Operational Priorities for Addressing AMR in the Human Health Sector, the AMR resolution adopted by the 77th World Health Assembly and the People-centred approach to addressing AMR and core package of AMR interventions.

 

Detention of United Nations and nongovernmental organization personnel in Yemen

WHO news - Thu, 06/13/2024 - 20:08

We, the Principals of the affected United Nations (UN) entities and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), call for the immediate and unconditional release of all personnel held in Yemen by the Houthi de facto authorities.

We are extremely concerned about the Houthi de facto authorities’ recent detention of 17 members of our organizations [UN entities and INGOs] and many others associated with civil society organizations, national and international NGOs, and other organizations supporting humanitarian activities.

These detentions are unprecedented – not only in Yemen but globally – and directly impede our ability to reach the most vulnerable people in Yemen, including the 18.2 million people who need humanitarian aid and protection.

We ask the de facto authorities to confirm the exact whereabouts of those detained and the conditions in which they are being held, as well as for immediate access to them.

International law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of liberty. International Humanitarian Law requires all parties to armed conflict to respect and protect humanitarian personnel, including against harassment, mistreatment, and unlawful arrest or detention.

The targeting of humanitarian, human rights, and development workers in Yemen must stop. All those detained must be immediately released.

 

Signed by:

Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director (interim), Oxfam International

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

Catherine Russell, Executive Director, UNICEF

Cindy McCain, Executive Director, WFP

Inger Ashing, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International

Michelle Nunn, President and CEO, CARE

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

Gavi to boost access to life-saving human rabies vaccines in over 50 countries: Gavi, WHO and UAR

WHO news - Tue, 06/11/2024 - 17:30
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in collaboration with partners, is announcing support for human rabies vaccines for post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) as part of routine immunisation. Eligible countries are receiving guidance on how to access these vaccines under Gavi’s cofinancing policy. The first round of applications will be reviewed in July 2024. Ninety-five percent of human rabies deaths occur in Africa and Asia, most often in marginalised communities that lack access to care.

Mr José Luis Castro appointed as WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Chronic Respiratory Diseases

WHO news - Wed, 06/05/2024 - 15:14
The World Health Organization (WHO) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr José Luis Castro as WHO Director-General Special Envoy for Chronic Respiratory Diseases. Chronic respiratory diseases (CRD), including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), affect nearly half a billion people worldwide. Despite their significant impact, these diseases have often been overlooked in global health discussions, lacking the necessary recognition and resources.

Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly – Daily update: 1 June 2024

WHO news - Sat, 06/01/2024 - 22:57
World Health Assembly agreement reached on wide-ranging, decisive package of amendments to improve the International Health Regulations, and sets date for finalizing negotiations on a proposed Pandemic Agreement

In a historic development, the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the World Health Organization's 194 member countries, today agreed on a package of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), and made concrete commitments to completing negotiations on a global pandemic agreement within a year, at the latest. These critical actions have been taken in order to ensure comprehensive, robust systems are in place in all countries to protect the health and safety of all people everywhere from the risk of future outbreaks and pandemics.

These decisions represent two important steps by countries, taken in tandem with one another on the final day of the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly, to build on lessons learned from several global health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The package of amendments to the Regulations will strengthen global preparedness, surveillance and responses to public health emergencies, including pandemics.

Related documents 

A77/A/CONF./14 Amendments to International Health Regulations (2005) agreed at Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly

More information on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body website 

 Items finalized after 5 pm on Friday 31 May
Report on health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory last year

On 31 May 2024, the World Health Assembly noted the report on health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The report detailed support for healthcare in the Palestinian territory up to October 2023, before the escalation. The Health Assembly also approved a decision on the same topic, with four further amendments.

Related documents

A77/18 Report on Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan (1 January to 7 October 2023)

A77/B/CONF./1 Decision on Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

A77/B/CONF./3 Amendment to Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

A77/B/CONF./4 Amendments to Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

Current health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem

Member States noted the report by the WHO Director-General on the public health implications of the crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as east Jerusalem. The report outlines the unprecedented humanitarian crisis, characterized by soaring levels of civilian mortality and morbidity, forced displacements, destruction of essential infrastructure and targeting of the health-care system. It notes that mass displacements, severe overcrowding and scant access to water, sanitation and health care for displaced people significantly increase the risk of infectious disease outbreaks. It outlines the work WHO has done to respond to the crisis, including coordination of the health response with partners, and high-risk missions to hospitals to assess conditions, deliver critical supplies, coordinate the deployment of emergency medical teams, and support patient evacuation. The report calls for a ceasefire, access for humanitarian workers and aid, and adherence to international humanitarian law.

Related document

A77/12 Report on Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem

Aligning the participation of Palestine in the WHO with its participation in the UN 

On Friday 31 May 2024, Member States approved a Resolution on aligning the participation of Palestine in WHO with its participation in the UN. The Resolution grants Palestine, in its capacity as an Observer State, in the World Health Assembly and other WHO meetings, expanded rights and privileges, including being seated among Member States, the right to speak on a wider range of topics, to submit proposals, and to hold certain positions in the Health Assembly. Palestine retains the status of Observer and as such, cannot vote or put forward candidacy for WHO organs. This is the first time the World Health Assembly has described Palestine as a State.

The United Nations granted Palestine non-Member Observer State status in 2012 and in May this year the UN’s General Assembly granted Palestine extended rights as an Observer State (see United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/ES-10/23).

Related document

A77/B/CONF./2 Aligning the participation of Palestine in the World Health Organization with its participation in the United Nations

Strengthening health emergency preparedness and response in cities and urban settings

Cities are especially vulnerable to health emergencies and need to be better prepared for future outbreaks. In this context, the World Health Assembly noted the Resolution on Strengthening health emergency preparedness and response in cities and urban settings. The Resolution urges Member States to sustain political commitment and strengthen multisectoral approaches in national health emergency preparedness and response policies, by developing, solidifying, and implementing comprehensive health emergency plans that incorporate regular simulation exercises and thorough after-action reviews, all conducted through a multisectoral approach. The Resolution also calls on WHO to provide technical support to Member States.

Related documents

WHA75.7 Strengthening health emergency preparedness and response in cities and urban settings

Related link

Strengthening health emergency preparedness in cities and urban settings: guidance for national and local authorities

 

Global health leaders convene a Strategic Roundtable on climate change and health

Global health leaders and experts convened for a Strategic Roundtable to address the critical intersection of climate change and health. This Roundtable aligned with WHO's new strategic objectives, reflecting achievements and future challenges in global health and underscored the landmark resolution on health and climate change approved earlier in the week by the Health Assembly. This event, held in anticipation of COP 29 and as part of the World Health Assembly, aimed to bolster momentum and shape the global health architecture for tackling climate change. Keynote speakers emphasized the urgency of the issue and the necessity for collaborative action to mitigate the health impacts of climate change and promote health mitigation policies in other sectors.

Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of The Lancet, opened the meeting by highlighting the pressing nature of the climate crisis.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, highlighted WHO’s shift in focus towards climate health action.

Former United States of America Vice President Al Gore provided opening remarks via video, and Dr Teymur Musayev, Minister of Healthcare, the Republic of Azerbaijan emphasized the great example of collaboration and coordination between health and environment ministers and provided a vision for health at the upcoming COP 29.

Hon. Dr Atonio Lalabalavu from the Republic of Fiji addressed climate change and health justice in small island developing states (SIDS), while Adnan Z. Amin, CEO of COP 28, highlighted historical health outcomes.

Participants engaged in discussions aimed at outlining actionable initiatives and enhancing global coordination efforts.

H.E. Dr Filomena Gonçalves, Minister of Health of the Republic of Cabo Verde, called for climate justice and equity in health. Professor Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, emphasized the critical role of climate services in improving public health outcomes.

Looking ahead to COP 29 in Azerbaijan and COP 30 in Brazil, participants discussed strategies for advancing the global health agenda amid climate challenges. Representatives from various entities, including youth advocates, NGOs, and international organizations, highlighted the need for adequate funding and coordinated efforts to address the complex interplay of climate and health issues. This Roundtable aligned with WHO's strategic objectives, facilitating reflection on achievements and future challenges in global health.

Related links

Climate change and health Resolution

Consolidated report by the Director-General 

 

World Health Assembly agreement reached on wide-ranging, decisive package of amendments to improve the International Health Regulations

WHO news - Sat, 06/01/2024 - 20:40

In an historic development, the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of its 194 member countries, today agreed a package of critical amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), and made concrete commitments to completing negotiations on a global pandemic agreement within a year, at the latest. These critical actions have been taken in order to ensure comprehensive, robust systems are in place in all countries to protect the health and safety of all people everywhere from the risk of future outbreaks and pandemics.

These decisions represent two important steps by countries, taken in tandem with one another on the final day of the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly, to build on lessons learned from several global health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. The package of amendments to the Regulations will strengthen global preparedness, surveillance and responses to public health emergencies, including pandemics.

The historic decisions taken today demonstrate a common desire by Member States to protect their own people, and the world’s, from the shared risk of public health emergencies and future pandemics,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The amendments to the International Health Regulations will bolster countries' ability to detect and respond to future outbreaks and pandemics by strengthening their own national capacities, and coordination between fellow States, on disease surveillance, information sharing and response. This is built on commitment to equity, an understanding that health threats do not recognize national borders, and that preparedness is a collective endeavor."

Dr Tedros added: The decision to conclude the Pandemic Agreement within the next year demonstrates how strongly and urgently countries want it, because the next pandemic is a matter of when, not if. Today’s strengthening of the IHR provides powerful momentum to complete the Pandemic Agreement, which, once finalized, can help to prevent a repeat of the devastation to health, societies and economies caused by COVID-19.

The new amendments to the IHR include:

  • introducing a definition of a pandemic emergency to trigger more effective international collaboration in response to events that are at risk of becoming, or have become, a pandemic. The pandemic emergency definition represents a higher level of alarm that builds on the existing mechanisms of the IHR, including the determination of  public health emergency of international concern. According to the definition, a pandemic emergency is a communicable disease that has, or is at high risk of having, wide geographical spread to and within multiple States, exceeds or is at high risk of exceeding the capacity of health systems to respond in those States; causes, or is at high risk of causing, substantial social and/or economic disruption, including disruption to international traffic and trade; and requires rapid, equitable and enhanced coordinated international action, with whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches;

  • a commitment to solidarity and equity on strengthening access to medical products and financing. This includes establishing a Coordinating Financial Mechanism to support identification of, and access to, financing required to “equitably address the needs and priorities of developing countries, including for developing, strengthening and maintaining core capacities,” and other pandemic emergency prevention, preparedness and response-related capacities;

  • establishment of the States Parties Committee to facilitate the effective implementation of the amended Regulations. The Committee will promote and support cooperation among States Parties for the effective implementation of the IHR; and

  • creation of National IHR Authorities to improve coordination of implementation of the Regulations within and among countries.

“The experience of epidemics and pandemics, from Ebola and Zika to COVID-19 and mpox, showed us where we needed better public health surveillance, response and preparedness mechanisms around the world,” said Dr Ashley Bloomfield of New Zealand, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR (WGIHR), and of the Drafting Group that guided the negotiations of the package of amendments during the WHA. “Countries knew what had to be done and we did it. I am so proud to be a part of this.”

Fellow WGIHR Co-Chair Dr Abdullah Assiri, of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, added: “The amendments to the International Health Regulations strengthen mechanisms for our collective protections and preparedness against outbreak and pandemic emergency risks. Today’s powerful show of global support for stronger Regulations also provide a great boost for the process to negotiate a much-needed international Pandemic Agreement.”

Plan agreed for finalizing negotiations on a Pandemic Agreement

Countries agreed to continue negotiating the proposed Pandemic Agreement to improve international coordination, collaboration and equity to prevent, prepare for and respond to future pandemics.

WHO’s Member States decided to extend the mandate of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body, established in December 2021, to finish its work to negotiate a Pandemic Agreement within a year, by the World Health Assembly in 2025, or earlier if possible at a special session of the Health Assembly in 2024.

“There was a clear consensus amongst all Member States on the need for a further instrument to help the world better fight a full-blown pandemic,” said Ms Precious Matsoso of South Africa, Co-Chair of both the Pandemic Accord Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and the Drafting Group on the INB and IHR agenda items at the WHA.

Fellow INB Co-Chair Roland Driece, from the Netherlands, said: “Today’s great result in approving amendments to the International Health Regulations will provide the momentum we need to finalize the Pandemic Agreement. We clearly have the will, the purpose and now the time needed to complete this generational agreement.”

Notes to editors:

The IHR (2005), the successors of the 1951 International Sanitary Regulations, were conceived to maximize collective efforts to manage public health events while at the same time minimizing their disruption to travel and trade. They have 196 States Parties, comprising all 194 WHO Member States plus Liechtenstein and the Holy See.

WHO Member States launched the process to develop the world’s first pandemic accord, to prevent a repeat of the global health, economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a Special Session of the World Health Assembly in December 2021.

Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly – Daily update: 31 May 2024

WHO news - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 20:49
Landmark resolution passed on health and climate change

In a resounding call to action, the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly has recognized climate change as an imminent threat to global health, passing a resolution which underscores the urgent need for decisive measures to confront the profound health risks posed by climate change.

The resolution, supported overwhelmingly by Member States, presents an overview of the existential threat that climate change poses to human health. The Health Assembly asserts that radical action is imperative to safeguard the health of the planet, underscoring the interdependence of environmental sustainability and public health.

Urging the global health community to mobilize on an unprecedented scale, the Health Assembly calls for the amplification and expansion of existing efforts to combat climate change within its core functions. This includes prioritizing health considerations in national and international climate policy frameworks, as well as supporting countries in building climate resilient and low carbon health systems.

By strengthening capacity building and providing technical support to national health ministries, the actions agreed at the Health Assembly will empower countries to implement robust climate-resilient health initiatives tailored to their unique circumstances, and to guide cross-sectoral actions that both promote health, and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The resolution marks a key moment in the fight against climate change, emphasizing the urgent need for collective action to protect both human health and the planet. 

WHO is committed to continuing to lead the global health response to climate change. The Organization plans to scale up its efforts in supporting Member States through leadership, raising awareness, providing technical support and building capacity. Key initiatives include presenting health as a central concern in climate policies, advancing evidence-based strategies, and mobilizing support for health and climate action in countries.

Related links 

 

Countries call for economies centred on health and well-being for all

The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the interdependence between health and economies. It demonstrated that in order to promote, provide and protect health and well-being, we need multi-sectoral financing and collaboration of all agencies of government beyond the Ministries of Health. 

Addressing the challenge, the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly passed a new resolution supporting countries to restructure their economies to serve the health of people and the planet. 

The new resolution takes forward the recommendations of the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All. It highlights that healthy populations and a thriving planet are prerequisites for sustainable development. The state of health and well-being is a reflection of how people live, what they eat, how they learn and work, and whether all people, at all ages, are able to get the healthcare they need without becoming impoverished. 

The resolution sets out a way forward for Member States, international and regional financial institutions, and other stakeholders to better align actions across economic, social and environmental dimensions, with a clear focus on health for all. 

Through this resolution, the Health Assembly mandated WHO to develop a strategy on economics and financing for health by 2026, to guide countries in advancing this bold new vision of economies built around health and well-being. 

The strategy will define priority actions, from strengthening national capacities to providing technical support in areas such as improving fiscal policy and engagement with economic associations, international finance institutions, and development banks. 

Related documents 

 

Member States commit to leveraging sports events for health and well-being

On 30 May 2024, WHO Member States approved a new resolution (initiated by Qatar) on strengthening health and well-being through sporting events. Through the resolution, Member States champion a novel strategy to improve global well-being reflecting a growing recognition of the multifaceted nature of well-being, encompassing not just physical health, but also mental and social aspects. 

Moving beyond the thrill of competition, the strategy envisions sports events as platforms for addressing critical public health challenges, including health emergency preparedness and response, noncommunicable diseases, violence and injuries, mental health and social inclusion. 

The Health Assembly stressed the importance of encouraging healthy diets and regular physical activity for people of all ages and abilities, fostering a culture of lifelong movement. Additionally, ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities is paramount in promoting inclusivity. Furthermore, developing and testing new models for resource allocation will be key to sustaining these health promotion initiatives through sports events.

This decision by the Health Assembly marks a significant shift towards a holistic approach to public health. By harnessing the unifying power of sports, this strategy paves the way for promoting healthier behaviours, fostering stronger communities, and ultimately, achieving greater well-being for all on a national, regional and global scale.

Related links

 

Making 2024 a watershed year for worldwide equitable action on antimicrobial resistance

Today, Member States, Members of the Global Leaders Group on AMR (GLG), partners, youth leaders and survivor advocates came together at a Strategic Roundtable to chart a new path forward for global action against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

2024 is a crucial year for AMR, with the 2nd United Nations General Assembly High-level Meeting (HLM) on AMR in New York, USA on 26 September 2024 and other major opportunities including the 4th Ministerial Meeting from 15–16 November 2024 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Today’s discussion brought leaders and partners championing a One Health approach to address the causes and consequences of AMR for the health of people, animals and the environment.  The discussion looked to capitalize on political momentum this year and beyond to build an effective and sustained response to AMR.  

The session also marked the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly adopting a resolution to accelerate national and global responses to AMR, which champions a people-centred approach and equitable access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infections.

The discussion also considered establishing of an Independent Panel on Evidence for Action against AMR, as well as targets to reduce mortality from AMR and the inappropriate use of antimicrobials. 

Other key topics of discussion included: financing for multisectoral action against AMR, ensuring access to and appropriate use of antimicrobials, country experiences, advocacy and governance priorities, patient stories, and recommendations by WHO, the Quadripartite (WHO, FAO, UNEP and WOAH), and others.

 

Member States express strong support for the continuation of the phased increase of Assessed Contributions (AC) and the Investment Round (IR)

Delegates in Committee A reviewed and discussed reports on items 16 and 18 on the agenda. The Secretariat presented an April update on the Programme Budget (PB) of US$ 6.8 billion, as approved by a WHA76 resolution. WHO is on track with financing (87%) and utilization (20%), with current trends indicating 100% implementation of the approved PB.

As of the end of April 2024, the base segment is 79% funded, thanks to a 20% increase in AC and pipeline projections. However, reliance on earmarked voluntary contributions remains a challenge. Delegates appreciated WHO's financing progress but noted concerns about funding gaps and uneven funding across regions, offices, and strategic pillars, emphasizing the need for sustainable, flexible funding.

Member States also appreciated the Secretariat's improvements in operational efficiency and cost-saving initiatives. There were strong expressions of support for the AC increases and the IR. They noted the successful launch of the Investment Round and the Investment Case and welcomed the Secretariat's report. Delegates reaffirmed the joint objective for a successful IR, emphasizing the need for sustainable financing to enhance WHO's agility and efficiency. They urged partners to increase funding flexibility and broaden WHO’s donor base, including the private sector, in line with Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA). The revised definition of thematic funds and streamlined reporting were supported. Regular updates on IR modalities were requested, alongside efforts to ensure financing complements global health priorities.

Both reports were noted.

Related links

  • A77/14 Financing and implementation of the Programme budget 2024–2025
  • A77/15 Financing and implementation of the Programme budget 2024–2025

Reporting on operational efficiencies

  • A77/17 Sustainable financing: WHO investment round
    A77/35 Sustainable financing: WHO investment round

Report of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board to the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly

  • A77/37 Financing and implementation of the Programme budget 2024–2025

Report of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board to the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly

 

Health emergency in Ukraine and the refugee crisis 

The World Health Assembly approved a resolution entitled ‘Health emergency in Ukraine and refugee-receiving and -hosting countries, stemming from the Russian Federation`s aggression’. The resolution calls on relevant Member States to respect international law, protect medical personnel and civilians, and ensure unobstructed humanitarian access. It also requests WHO to keep supporting Ukraine and refugee-hosting countries.

Related documents  

  • A77/A/CONF./6 Health emergency in Ukraine and refugee-receiving and –hosting countries, stemming from the Russian Federation`s aggression (note the PDF link is for French version) 

Related links

 

Member States on road to lasting polio-free world

On polio eradication, Member States commended the efforts to interrupt wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) transmission in the last two remaining endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, noted the decrease in the number of cases, expressed concern about the recent increase in positive environmental detections outside of the traditional reservoirs, and welcomed cross border collaboration within this single epidemiological block with continued synchronized vaccinations to reach children. 

Member States also welcomed the continuing downward trend in variant poliovirus type 2 cases but expressed caution about the mixed progress in the most consequential geographies, which highlight continued gaps in population immunity. Member States underscored the importance of strengthening essential immunization, noting that whilst supplementary immunization activities have played a critical role in moving towards eradication, strengthening IPV1 coverage in general and in zero dose communities in particular should remain a top priority, encouraging stronger collaboration with immunization partners, including Gavi, and making use of opportunities such as the “Big Catch Up”.

Member States also welcomed the efforts for polio transition, including the new strategic framework that makes a series of changes to strengthen implementation, underscoring the collective duty to prepare for a polio-free world.

Rotary International, the civil society partner of the global polio eradication effort, thanked Member States for their commitments and reaffirmed the ongoing engagement of its own membership across the world.   

Related links

  • A77/4 Consolidated report by the Directory General; 14.4 – poliomyelitis eradication; and, polio transition planning and polio post-certification

 

Smallpox report: destruction of variola virus stocks 

The World Health Assembly noted the report on ‘Smallpox eradication: destruction of variola virus stocks.’ Although smallpox was eradicated in 1980, the virus is held in two locations under WHO supervision to enable research. Delegates called for maintaining the existing virus stocks and continuing their inspections. Smallpox countermeasures like vaccines and treatments have been used in the multi-country mpox outbreak, which continues to affect countries worldwide. Delegates called for increasing research and development on mpox and addressing the stark inequities in access to the countermeasures.

Related documents

  • EB154/20  Smallpox eradication: destruction of variola virus stocks

 

Items from Thursday, 30 May 2024

 WHO’s work in health emergencies

On Thursday evening, 30 May, the Health Assembly considered several items related to WHO’s work in emergencies, including a report on the work done in the past year. WHO responded to 72 acute and protracted graded health emergencies in 2023, including complex crises, natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and conflicts.  Thanks to over 900 partners, more than 107 million people across 29 countries and two regions were targeted for support by the health cluster in the reporting period. Operational impediments included restricted access for humanitarian workers and supplies, and poor funding of humanitarian response plans and for local partners. The report highlighted a critical funding gap for WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, hindering its ability to respond effectively. It called for increased and sustained funding, a more strategic approach to building long-term resilience, and stronger health systems to address future emergencies.  

Related documents

  • A77/11 Report on WHO’s work in health emergencies; Public health emergencies: preparedness and response
  • A77/4 Consolidated report by the Director-General

Related links

 

Independent report on WHO’s work in emergencies  

The Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (IOAC) is mandated to oversee and guide WHO’s work in emergencies, to advise the Director-General on issues within its mandate and to report its findings to the Health Assembly. 

On Thursday, 30 May, delegates noted the report of the committee. It commended WHO’s work in emergencies over a very turbulent year and in increasingly insecure settings. It remained deeply concerned at the fragility of the situation in which WHO’s Emergencies Programme operates, including the lack of sustainable financing. The committee noted a steep increase in humanitarian health needs globally, and WHO’s increasing role in addressing these. The committee expressed serious concerns over the ongoing spread of dengue and cholera across different regions, recommending that WHO complete a risk mapping for dengue as a matter of urgency and step up its efforts to address the global shortage of oral cholera vaccines. It recommended better tracking of these diseases, more collaboration in crises, and easier reporting for countries. 

Related documents

  • A77/7 Report of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme

Related links

 

New focus on managing emergency preparedness for disasters resulting from natural hazards

Countries continue to face emergencies resulting from natural hazards, such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, tsunamis, storms, extreme temperatures, and forest fires. Health systems face additional pressures from the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related extreme weather events, and require progress on adaptation, risk reduction and preparedness efforts to protect populations. In this context, on Thursday, 30 May, the World Health Assembly endorsed a resolution strengthening health emergency preparedness for these hazards. The resolution calls for Member States to do more -- and WHO to provide further support -- to prepare for and manage these hazards with risk assessments, investments in resilient health systems, and coordination across government departments, social and industrial sectors, and with communities. 

Related documents

  • EB154/CONF./2 Strengthening health emergency preparedness for disasters resulting from natural hazards  

Related links

 

Implementing the International Health Regulations

The Director-General reported on progress made by Member States in implementing the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR). Almost all countries provided a self-assessment report in 2023.  Numerous joint external evaluations, after- and intra-action reviews, and training were conducted to strengthen preparedness for and response to health emergencies. However, there remain delays in reporting and verifying disease outbreaks.  

As COVID-19 and mpox no longer constitute public health emergencies of international concern, WHO issued standing recommendations for countries, which were welcomed by a number of Member States. 

Member States noted the report and spoke to the centrality of the IHR in promoting global health security, mentioning their own efforts towards the strengthening of IHR core capacities.

Related documents

  • A77/8 Implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005)

Related links  

 

Global Health and Peace Initiative 

The Global Health and Peace Initiative is a global effort led by WHO to enhance the existing links between health and peace. It aims to strengthen WHO's contributions to social cohesion, dialogue, and resilience to violence through health programs where appropriate, with partners and under national leadership.

On Thursday, 30 May 2024, Member States approved the resolution for the Secretariat to continue strengthening the roadmap towards the Global Health and Peace Initiative by gathering evidence, raising awareness about the initiative, capacity building, continuing to work with partners, and reporting back on the preceding. 

Related documents

Related links 

 

Strengthening laboratory biological risk management

Also on 31 May 2024, the World Health Assembly endorsed a resolution on strengthening laboratory biological risk management as a necessary health security capacity. It covers laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, referring to both unintentional and intentional exposure to or release of biological or other materials. The resolution calls on Member States to develop or update national plans to include biological risk mitigation and management, build capacity of human resources, and promote a risk-based approach and culture of biosafety and biosecurity. The resolution also calls on the Secretariat to provide technical assistance to Member States, monitor developments in this area, and convene discussions to develop standards.

Related documents

  • EB154(10) Strengthening laboratory biological risk management

Related links

 

Awards for outstanding contributions to public health presented during the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly

WHO news - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 13:46
During a special ceremony at the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly in Geneva on Friday, 31 May 2024, eight winners from four WHO Regions were awarded for their outstanding contributions to public health.

Statement by Principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC): No time to lose as famine stalks millions in Sudan amid intense fighting and access denials

WHO news - Fri, 05/31/2024 - 13:12
With the conflict now in its second year, 18 million people are acutely hungry, including 3.6 million children who are acutely malnourished, and famine is quickly closing in on millions of people in Darfur, Kordofan, Aj Jazirah and Khartoum.

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