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More than 30 resolutions and decisions were adopted at this year's World Health Assembly in different areas of public health: decisions on diabetes, disabilities, ending violence against children, eye care, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, local production of medicines, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, noncommunicable diseases, nursing and midwifery, oral health, social determinants of health and strategic directions for the health and care workforce.
In his closing remarks, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reminded delegates that the theme of this Assembly was “Ending this pandemic, preventing the next: building together a healthier, safer and fairer world”
"We’re very encouraged that cases and deaths are continuing to decline globally, but it would be a monumental error for any country to think the danger has passed," said Dr Tedros urging countries to commit to supporting the targets to achieve vaccination of at least 10% of the population of all countries by the end of September, and at least 30% by the end of the year.
"One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us but we will still face the same vulnerabilities that allowed a small outbreak to become a global pandemic."
"That’s why the one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response."
Dr Tedros echoed the message that a strong WHO needs to be properly financed as it has been amplified by all the expert reviews that reported to this Assembly. Dr Tedros urged Member States to seize this pivotal moment and chart a course to a sustainable financial model.
Today, the Assembly focused on following issues:
Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies
COVID-19 and other major disease outbreaks, as well as continuing humanitarian situations, highlight the need for a stronger collective and coordinated approach to preparedness and response to health emergencies.
Member States today agreed to meet again in November, at a special session of the World Health Assembly, to consider developing a WHO global agreement.
“We need a generational commitment that outlives budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles, that creates an overarching framework for connecting the political, financial and technical mechanisms needed for strengthening global health security,” he said. Such a treaty would “foster improved sharing, trust and accountability, and provide the solid foundation on which to build other mechanisms for global health security.”
Member States also agreed on a Resolution reaffirming WHO’s role as the directing and coordinating authority in health during emergencies and beyond, and to aid governments towards achieving resilient health systems and universal health coverage.
The Resolution provides recommendations to WHO to strengthen current and future work notably via convening a Member States’ Working Group on Strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies, open to all Member States, to review recommendations from the various reports received at this Assembly. The Working Group is tasked with reporting to next year’s Assembly.
The Resolution calls on Member States to provide WHO with sustainable financing, while continuing their response to the pandemic and strengthening preparedness capacities, including strengthening their workforce, research activities, surveillance systems, while adopting a One Health Approach; while continuing to work in a spirit of global cooperation, sharing reliable information, countering infodemics and stigmatization; and ensuring response efforts do not exacerbate other health challenges.
The Director-General thanked Member States for approving this “historic resolution,” and their support for a strengthened WHO. “The reports of the IPPPR, the IHR Review Committee and the IOAC are unanimous in their view that the world needs a stronger WHO at the centre of the global health architecture…As the reports all say and many Member States have emphasised, a paradigm shift in the quantity and quality of funding for the Secretariat is a key issue.”
Resolution on Strengthening WHO Preparedness for and response to health emergencies can be found here: https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA74/A74_ACONF2-en.pdf
Decision on a Special session of the World Health Assembly to consider developing a WHO convention, agreement or other international can be found here: https://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA74/A74_ACONF7-en.pdf
Countries are increasingly showing greater recognition of the importance of this area. For example, during the pandemic, the number of countries with a functioning multisectoral mental health and psychosocial support coordination platform in humanitarian emergencies has doubled while 90% of Member States responding to a WHO survey in early 2021 reported that mental health and psychosocial support were included in their COVID-19 response plans.
In 2020, a wide range of resources were developed in many languages by WHO in collaboration with partners, including: a stress management guide for the general public; a guide for COVID-19 responders on basic psychosocial skills; and a toolkit to help older adults maintain mental well-being. In addition, WHO has collaborated on the elaboration of the first-ever programme for rapid deployment of experts in mental health and psychosocial support during public health and humanitarian emergencies. Launched in January 2020, more than 20 deployments have been undertaken to date.
Delegates to the World Health Assembly endorsed the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, including the plan’s updated implementation options and indicators. For the first time, the plan includes an indicator on preparedness for providing mental health and psychosocial support during emergencies.
Please note that following the WHA, the meeting of the Executive Board will take place on 2 June. The provisional agenda, list of EB members can be found here:
New resolutions on:
Member State requests for WHO’s support in strengthening local production have been increasing in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight even more the urgent need for enhancing quality manufacturing capacity in all regions of the world, including for innovative, highly effective health products such as mRNA technologies. Such capacity is necessary to address or even avert future public health emergencies and to improve access to health products in general through stronger health systems.
Sponsored by more than 100 countries, today’s resolution specifically calls for a more comprehensive, all-of-government approach, national strategies and action plans, an enabling business environment, human capital development, multi-stakeholder collaboration and engagement in regional and global networks.
WHO has already committed to holding the first ever World Local Production Forum in June this year, convening countries, partners and other stakeholders to discuss strategies to promote local production to improve access to health products during the current pandemic and beyond.
Today’s resolution on Ending violence against children through health systems strengthening and multisectoral approaches aims to strengthen health sector capacity to prevent and respond to violence against children.
The health sector plays a major role in documenting the extent of the problem of violence against children; delivering and monitoring prevention approaches and providing services to mitigate the consequences of exposure to violence.
The new resolution lists a range of actions to be taken by governments and the WHO Secretariat, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to ensure the health and well-being of children.
Every year, about 1 billion children are affected by physical, sexual or psychological violence, suffering injuries, disabilities and death as well as the negative impact of witnessing violence between parents or caregivers. In addition to the immediate and lifelong harmful consequences to individuals and families, violence against children undermines investments in health and education and erodes the productive capacity of future generations. COVID-19-related stay-at-home measures have highlighted children’s vulnerability to violence within family settings.
The new resolution invites countries to scale-up the implementation of two WHO-led technical packages, INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children and RESPECT women: a framework for preventing violence against women, developed to help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on ending violence against children (SDG 16.2) and violence against women and girls (SDG 5.2).
The first-ever Global status report on preventing violence against children 2020 measured countries’ progress on preventing and responding to violence against children. The report highlighted substantial achievements at global, regional and country levels, while also emphasizing an urgent need to accelerate prevention efforts if the SDG targets to end violence are to be achieved. The resolution invites the WHO Secretariat to prepare the second and third global status reports on violence against children in 2025 and 2030.
The goal of this resolution is to reduce the glaring health inequities recently highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, through stronger action to tackle the social determinants that play such a prominent role in defining people’s ability to live healthy lives.
These include the conditions people live in, as well as their access to power, money, and resources, including healthcare. They are often driven by discrimination and persecution, such as racism, sexism, classism and war. And they impact every aspect of health.
Children from the poorest households in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are twice as likely to die before their 5th birthday as those from the richest households. People in rich countries live as many as 16 years longer than those in poor ones.
The World Health Assembly adopted resolutions on social determinants of health in 2009 (following the report of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health) and in 2012 (following the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health and the Rio Political Declaration on the Social Determinants of Health).
The social and health inequalities exposed by COVID-19 have led to renewed interest by Member States in WHO’s work on social determinants of health, and this new resolution.
The resolution aims to strengthen action globally and within countries on the social determinants of health; to reduce health inequities by involving all sectors in taking concrete action to improve living conditions and reduce social inequalities; and improve monitoring of social determinants and health inequities. The resolution lists actions to be taken by governments, civil society, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and the WHO Secretariat, including in continuing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and in future recovery efforts.
Office of the Spokesperson
The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Coalition condemn in the strongest terms Belarus’ forced diversion and landing of a commercial aircraft and subsequent arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich.
This unprecedented and shocking action constitutes a full frontal attack on media freedom and has serious implications on the right of freedom of expression and opinion more broadly. This action is all the more troubling when seen in the context of the large-scale campaign to silence independent voices in Belarus, including the May 18 raid on the offices of independent news site tut.by and the subsequent arrest of several staff. Some 400 journalists and workers in the media in Belarus have faced various forms of repression in the course of the August 9 election and its aftermath.
The Media Freedom Coalition demands the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Protasevich as well as other journalists and media workers who have been detained in Belarus for doing their jobs. Those responsible must be held accountable for attacks on journalists and media workers.
Media freedom is an important part of democratic societies and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The World Health Assembly has asked the World Health Organization to develop an implementation roadmap for 2023-2030 in support of the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
The roadmap will provide a basis for countries to decide on priority activities and pathways to accelerate progress towards achievement of SDG target 3.4 in the next 10 years.
Target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030 relative to 2015 levels. Only 17 countries are currently on track to meet that target for women and 15 for men. Actions relating to the achievement of other SDG 3 targets, such as those relating to the reduction of tobacco use and universal health coverage, will be included in the roadmap.
WHO will consult widely internally and externally, including with people living with NCDs, during the development of the roadmap. Lessons learned from the work of WHO and key partners already undertaken to prevent and control NCDs, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be taken into consideration.
The roadmap will be submitted for consideration to the World Health Assembly in May 2022, following review by the Executive Board at its January 2022 session and subsequent consultations with Member States.
More than 3.5 billion people suffer from oral diseases. Untreated dental caries (tooth decay) in permanent teeth is the most common. Severe periodontal (gum) disease affects almost 10% of the global population and more than 530 million children suffer from dental caries of primary teeth. Oral diseases disproportionally affect the poor and socially-disadvantaged populations. Most oral diseases have been linked with other noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, pneumonia, obesity and premature birth.
Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages but treatment is often not affordable as usually not part of universal health coverage packages. The use of fluoride, which can substantially reduce the risk of dental caries, remains inaccessible in many parts of the world.
The World Health Assembly approved today a historic Resolution on oral health. The Resolution urges Member States to address key risk factors of oral diseases shared with other noncommunicable diseases such as high intake of free sugars, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, and to enhance the capacities of oral health professionals. It also recommends a shift from the traditional curative approach towards a preventive approach that includes promotion of oral health within the family, schools and workplaces, and includes timely, comprehensive and inclusive care within the primary health-care system. During the discussion, clear agreement emerged that oral health should be firmly embedded within the noncommunicable disease agenda and that oral health-care interventions should be included in universal health coverage programmes.
The World Health Assembly delegates asked WHO: to develop, by 2022, a draft global strategy on tackling oral diseases for consideration by WHO governing bodies in 2022 and by 2023; to translate the global strategy into an action plan for oral health; to develop “best buy” interventions on oral health; and to explore the inclusion of noma (a disease which is fatal for 90% of children affected) within the roadmap for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030.
WHO was asked to report back on progress and results until 2031 as part of the consolidated report on noncommunicable diseases.
Consolidated report by the Director-General to the May 2021 World Health Assembly (Report on oral health: page 18)
More than 420 million people are living with diabetes, a number that is expected to rise to 578 million by 2030. One in two adults living with diabetes type 2 are undiagnosed. Globally, 100 years after the discovery of insulin, half of the people with type 2 diabetes who need insulin are not receiving it. Between 2000 and 2016, there was a 5% increase in premature mortality from diabetes. By contrast, during the same period, there was a decrease in premature mortality for all other main noncommunicable diseases. In addition, people living with diabetes have a higher risk of becoming severely ill and dying from COVID-19.
The Resolution agreed by the World Health Assembly today urges Member States to raise the priority given to the prevention, diagnosis and control of diabetes as well as prevention and management of risk factors such as obesity.
It recommends action in a number of areas including: the development of pathways for achieving targets for the prevention and control of diabetes, including access to insulin; the promotion of convergence and harmonization of regulatory requirements for insulin and other medicines and health products for the treatment of diabetes; and assessment of the feasibility and potential value of establishing a web-based tool to share information relevant to the transparency of markets for diabetes medicines and health products.
Delegates at the Assembly requested WHO to develop recommendations and provide support for strengthening diabetes monitoring and surveillance within national noncommunicable disease programmes and to consider potential targets. WHO was also asked to make recommendations on the prevention and management of obesity. All recommendations are to be submitted to the World Health Assembly for consideration in 2022.
WHO was requested to provide guidance to Member States on the design and implementation of policies for diabetes prevention and control and to develop recommendations for adequate, predictable and sustained financing of diabetes prevention and control.
Delegates asked WHO to submit a report on the implementation of the Resolution to the Health Assembly through the Executive Board, on an annual basis and as a component on the report on noncommunicable diseases, from 2022 to 2031.
Related linksGlobal Diabetes Compact