Context: Recently, a World Health Organisation (WHO) committee has recommended to adopt a resolution to strengthen preparedness for health emergencies at the ongoing 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) session.

More on the news: 

  • The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has provided a new impetus for putting in place plans to prepare for health emergencies in the future. 

Need for such a resolution:

  • Renews the commitment: to better prepare for health emergencies and compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). 
  • Stricter regulations are needed: 
    • IHR 2005 provides a legally binding framework that defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling public health emergencies with potential to cross borders. 
    • However, COVID-19 spread from China, highlights the need for stricter regulations.
  • Urges WHO member states to increase domestic investment: This will ensure public funding for health emergency preparedness. 
  • Improve decision-making processes: And enhance institutional capacity and infrastructure for public health. 
  • For better equipping countries: To detect and respond to cases of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. 
    • That is because other than the pandemic, the WHO also had to deal with 60 more health emergencies during the pandemic period - Chikungunya in Chad, yellow fever in Gabon and Togo and measles in Mexico. 
  • To continue essential health services: When WHO surveyed 105 countries recently, they found there was disruption to 25 essential health services (outpatient care, diagnosis and treatment for communicable and non-communicable diseases etc) in all countries. 

Learnings from the pandemic

  1. The world can beat COVID-19 with science, solutions and solidarity. 
  2. The world must not backslide on our critical health goals. 
  3. The world must prepare for the next pandemic now.

Way ahead: 

  • Health emergency preparedness infrastructure is needed: The pandemic has highlighted that healthier populations, universal health coverage and global health security are linked and countries with better health emergency preparedness infrastructure were able to act quickly and control the spread of the virus. 
  • Though a vaccine is needed urgently, it won’t fix vulnerabilities: For example, a vaccine cannot address the under-investment in essential public health functions and resilient health systems.
  • ‘One Health’ approach: That encompasses the health of humans, animals and the planet the world shares.

World Health Organisation (WHO):

  • WHO is the first global health organization established in 1948 by replacing many regional and national health bodies.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. 
    • The International Health Regulations (IHR), first adopted by the World Health Assembly (in 1969 and revised in 2005), are a legally binding instrument of international law that aims for international collaboration to prevent international spread of disease.
  • It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.
  • It has 194-member countries, and its secretariat is in Geneva, Switzerland.  
  • It has the authority of directing and coordinating matters related to international health.  
  • The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of WHO, attended by delegations from all member states.  
  • The Executive Board of WHO implements the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly.