Viewpoint: Why Proposed WHO Reforms Aren’t Enough to Deal With the Next Epidemic
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Every May, the members of the World Health Organization (WHO) meet in Geneva for the World Health Assembly (WHA). WHA is incredibly important for how WHO operates, as this is the meeting that determines the organization’s policies and approves its budget. This year’s WHA garnered far more international attention, as it was the first time the member-states were coming together to discuss WHO reforms in the wake of its response to Ebola.
The Constitution of the World Health Organization specifies that the organization’s purpose is to “act as the direction and co-ordinating authority on international health work.” In the West African Ebola outbreak, though, WHO failed as a director and coordinator. Director-General Margaret Chan has said that WHO must change before the next global pandemic. Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, has called WHO “overly-politicized,” “too bureaucratic,” and “timid.” An interim assessment report of WHO’s Ebola response recognized the complexity of the outbreak, but lambasted the organization for its “serious gaps” in responding.
In response to these flaws, Chan announced a series of reforms to WHO at the opening of the Assembly. These reforms will:
- Establish a $100 million emergency reserve fund that can finance field operations for up to three months in response to an infectious disease outbreak;
- Create a rapid response team that can be deployed quickly to provide services on the ground;
- Set up a review committee to consider improvements to theInternational Health Regulations and their requirements that states set up robust disease surveillance systems; and
- Develop a semi-autonomous committee within WHO, insulated from political pressures, that will have responsibility for declaring global health emergencies.
Source: The Washington Post (link opens in a new window)
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