The 74th World Health Assembly closed Monday with a strong call for an empowered WHO and a pandemic treaty to strengthen global preparedness for health emergencies.
Top priorities: Ending the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing the next one.
“Right now the pathogens have the upper hand, they are emerging more frequently and often silently in a planet that is out of balance,” WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan said, according to Reuters.
Member states agreed to meet in late November to discuss a global treaty that would “outlive budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who also warned that the agency is currently struggling to maintain its current level of pandemic response.
A key part of the pandemic treaty: Giving WHO the power to swiftly investigate new disease outbreaks and promptly publish their findings.
Another imbalance to correct: Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin drove home the desperate need for equitable vaccine access and his support from intellectual property waivers—his country has secured just 6% of the vaccines it needs, Health Policy Watch reported.
More highlights from the 30+ resolutions and decisions adopted:
- An updated mental health action plan that for the first time includes mental health support during emergencies.
- An “ambitious” 16% budget boost for the agency, which struggles to respond to health emergencies because most of its budget earmarked for specific health issues, AP reported.
- A “historic” resolution reaffirming WHO’s role as the global directing and coordinating body during health emergencies
- Initiatives to promote local production of medicines, tackle non-communicable diseases, and expand services for diabetes, disabilities, and eye care.