Building a more effective and fair global health system: the 194 member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) meet in Geneva on Sunday, May 22, for the 75th World Health Assembly, in a context complicated by conflicts , inequality, the climate crisis and pandemics.
The impact of the invasion of Ukraine
A resolution launched by Ukraine must in particular denounce the attacks perpetrated by Moscow on the health system but also condemn the extremely serious consequences of the invasion and blockade of Ukrainian ports on world supply and the explosion in the price of cereals. . “The war in Ukraine has a systemic impact on international organizations since it requires considerable time to be spent managing the Russian question in organizations and the declination of the consequences on health in Ukraine, in Europe and in the world. “, explains a European diplomat.
There is also a balance to be struck, with many countries believing that Ukraine’s allies are applying double standards and neglecting other crises. For these countries, health cooperation is a separate area that needs to be preserved.
On the Russian side, the embassy in Geneva wanted to nip in the bud information that Moscow was preparing to withdraw from the organization. “Rumours that Russia will withdraw from the WHO are simply untrue,” hammers out a tweet punctuated by a giant exclamation point.
Ensure sustainable funding for WHO
The five-year reappointment of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is achieved despite the hitches that marked his first term, such as his attitude deemed too conciliatory towards China at the start of Covid-19 and a too slow reaction to the scandal of sexual exploitation of certain employees. But without a rival and with the support of the heavyweights of the organization, the first African director general of the WHO will be able to continue his work. “We confidently expect from him a very strong commitment to the continued management of the pandemic but also the very large project of global health reform”, underlines the European diplomat.
From Monday, the ministers of health should follow one another at the podium for this first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic and will discuss the sustainable financing of the WHO. The organization only has a two-year budget of around $6 billion. By comparison, the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris has just under 8 billion euros per year.
The problem is with assessed contributions: mandatory membership dues that only account for 16% of the total in 2020-21. The rest – voluntary contributions – are more difficult to plan, spend energy to obtain and are often assigned to a specific task. The idea is to gradually increase the share of compulsory contributions to 50%, over a period of ten years to allow the WHO to better play its role, but not without reforming itself in return. “It will be important for the WHO to quickly implement the reforms” so that the decisions on sustainable funding can apply, warned Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the US ambassador.
Respond more effectively to health emergencies
The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare what is not working in the global health system. The Assembly will therefore look into revamping the international health regulations (IHR), to enable a more effective and rapid response to health emergencies.
In the same vein, the Assembly should decide on the creation of a Standing Committee on Emergencies stemming from the WHO Executive Board and activating within 24 hours in the event of a health emergency of international concern, i.e. ie WHO’s highest level of alert. At the same time, work has been launched on a new international agreement on global health, which for its supporters should be binding, and could complement the IHR. In December, an intergovernmental negotiating group was set up to work on this. As a matter of fact, 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 large-scale crisis worries the health authorities.