Covid-19 exposes vulnerability to health threats

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The World Health Assembly (WHA) is all set to hold a special session from November 29 next. Keeping WHA in mind, the six-month accountability report was presented this week. Notably, this will be the second WHA in the history of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report clearly highlighted and presented clear evidence of the current system being incapable of protecting us from the next pandemic, and that the world needs to prepare for the next global health threat. Health ministers from WHO member states will be participating in the three-day WHA where they will brainstorm to consider negotiating a treaty aimed at preventing future pandemics. If it succeeds, it would only be the second global public health treaty after a 2003 accord to control tobacco use.

90 million more people have contracted Covid-19 since May, and 1.65 million people have lost their battle against the virus, the report noted. It further assessed the progress and advised up-gradation in the areas of leadership and governance, financing, equity, a new legal instrument, and a stronger WHO. The Covid-19 has compelled the world to take immediate action for a package of international, interlinked reforms to stop a future outbreak that is quite lethal as proven by Covid-19. “There is progress, but it is not fast or cohesive enough to bring this pandemic to an end across the globe in the near term or to prevent another,” the panel said in its report. It is noteworthy that since December 2019 over 257 million people have been reported to be infected by Covid-19 and 5.5 million have died. The accountability report further stressed on availability of finance and governance with accountability. It maintains, “governance without finance lacks teeth, and finance without governance lacks accountability. At least USD 10 billion in new financing annually and up to USD 100 billion in a pool of response funding is needed for a pandemic threat.” The report also recommended that the Global Health Threats Council should allocate and monitor funding from a new financing mechanism that supports pandemic preparedness and responses.

While presenting the report the co-chairs of the panel Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that uneven progress in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause illness, deaths, and economic losses and have called for heads of state and governments to come together to make faster progress. “Given the scale of devastation from this pandemic and its continuing impact on people across the globe, the panel resolved to document fully what happened and why, and to make bold recommendations for change,” said Clark. In this context, the independent panel has said that the WHO must be strengthened with more funding and greater ability to investigate pandemics through a new treaty. “Strengthening the authority and independence of the WHO and developing new legal instruments are pivotal to the package of reforms required,” the panel said. All in all, the world will in the next fortnight know the final shape of the negotiations that are presently going on behind the scenes.

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