NEWS ANALYSIS: WHO charts new course for global health


The recent outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo brings to light the crucial need for relevant health organisations and countries to always be on alert and ready to tackle any health emergency.

Lack of readiness to respond to health emergencies including disease outbreaks and pandemics has led to loss of lives; a tragedy that can be prevented with concerted efforts.

In the light of this challenge, the World Health Organisation (WHO) presented before the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, held from May 21 to May 26 an action plan aimed at creating a safer, healthier environment for people all over the world.

The plan which is the establishment of the “Global Preparedness Monitoring Board’’ will regularly monitor and report its preparedness level and that of countries and other organisations to tackle all health emergencies.

WHO observes that the mechanism, which will start soon, will strengthen global health security by ensuring that all relevant organisations are always ready to tackle outbreaks, pandemics and other emergencies.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus observed best way to prevent future outbreaks would be to strengthen health systems everywhere.

According to him, Global Preparedness Monitoring Board is an independent initiative convened by WHO and the World Bank.

Dr Gro Brundtland, a former Director-General of WHO and Mr Elhadj Sy, the Secretary General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will lead the board.

He said that with the establishment of the board, anxiety and panics at the outbreaks of diseases would be checked because the board would ensure adequate preparedness for pandemics always.

He also explained that the responsibility of the board would include monitoring preparedness across governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector, with annual report on adequacy of financing, progress on research and development.Image result for snake bites

“Part of being prepared to tackle any disease outbreak is having a means of assessing progress made at all levels by actors, identifying any gaps including financing and ensuring everyone works together.

“Our new strategic plan is ambitious, and it must be. Too much is at stake for us to be modest; this plan is not about reinventing the wheel but making a bigger impact than we already make.

“We will not settle for a world in which people get sick because the air they breathe is not fit for human consumption.

“We will not settle for a world in which people have to choose between sickness and poverty because of the costs of paying for care out of their pockets,’’ he said.

During the assembly, WHO estimated that more than two million people were bitten by venomous snakes every year while more than 138,000 people died as a result of snake bites.

Ghebreyesus said that the organisation would need to improve access to safe, effective and affordable anti-venoms for snakebite and coordinate global efforts to control snake bite.

The organisation, during the assembly, also rolled out a five-year plan of ensuring no fewer than billion people around the world get access to quality health care in order to boost global health levels.

Ghebreyesus said that the plan would focus on improving nutrition, securing a lasting polio-free world and coordinate global efforts to control snakebite.

Delegates at the assembly, nonetheless, noted progress to achieve the global nutrition target of the World Health Assembly had been dragging, even as they renewed commitment to investing and scaling up nutrition policies and programmes to improve infant and young child feeding.

Other plan to improve global health by 2023 is to encourage people to participate in physical activities to check heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

In addition to this, the delegates at the assembly urged WHO to prepare by 2021 a global report on effective access to assistive technology such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking frames, reading glasses and prosthetic limbs.

They also called on the organisation to launch a coordinated global response to rheumatic heart disease causing deaths among many sufferers.

Ghebreyesus, however, noted that the organisations five-year strategic plan would be measured its success by outputs and outcomes.

“Ultimately, the people we serve are not the people with power they are the people with no power; the true test of whether our deliberations is successful will be whether they result in real change on the ground.

“The great commitment I have witnessed gives me great hope and confidence that together we can promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

“I urge you to go with a renewed determination to work every day for the health of your people and do not accept the status quo; do not believe that some problems can never be resolved.

“Choose to believe instead, that it is within your power to make real, lasting change,’’ Ghebreyesus advised.