Conflicts and health emergencies overshadow WHO successes as Executive Board kicks off

Dr Tedros opens the WHO Executive Board meeting.

Helping 100 million smokers quit, increasing exclusive breastfeeding for babies under six months to 48% globally, and helping 63 countries build climate-resilient health systems are just some of the one of the recent successes of the World Health Organization (WHO), said Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Addressing the opening of the WHO Executive Board (EB) meeting on Monday, Tedros said that the global body focused on “the promotion, provision, protection, nourishment and performance for health”.

The 152nd session of the Executive Board, which runs until February 7, has a busy schedule – ranging from a series of initiatives to improve the global emergency response to a updated WHO recommended “best buys” menu to combat non-communicable diseases. EC approval of draft resolutions and decisions is a prerequisite for most proposals to be presented to the WWorld Health Organization (AMS) in May. The EC also plays an oversight role vis-à-vis the financial and budgetary planning of the WHO, which has 9,000 members, advising on the strategic directions of the work of the global body.

Protecting health during conflict and humanitarian crises formed a large part of WHO’s work in 2022, as it responded to 72 classified emergencies last year, “including three public health emergencies of international concern, from Ebola and cholera outbreaks, conflicts in Ethiopia, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, and humanitarian crises in the Greater Horn of Africa, the Sahel and much more,” said Tedros.

“Thanks to the generosity of Emergency Contingency Fund donors, we were able to immediately release more than $87 million to support a rapid response, and we have delivered essential medical supplies to 90 countries from our logistics center in Dubai to the United States. United Arab Emirates,” says Tedros.

Africa demands increased country allocations

However, in response to the speech, Botswana on behalf of the African Union called on WHO to strengthen the African region, and in particular to strengthen country offices in the region, which are historically under-resourced and understaffed, to that they can better support national ministries responding to health crises.

“We call on WHO to build capacity at regional and national levels to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs technical and financial support in order to effectively respond and support country needs,” said Botswana.

As for the first time more than half of WHO’s 2024-2025 budget has been allocated to country offices, Botswana has called for this to be increased to 75% to ‘address budgetary and funding imbalances’ , stating that it was “a precondition for increasing assessed contributions” from member states.

For many member states reacting to Tedros’ speech, Russia’s war in Ukraine was a major obstacle to global well-being.

Denmark condemns Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Russia’s War in Ukraine

Denmark, representing the 27 member states of the European Union and seven aligned countries, said “nearly 750 attacks on health care have been verified in Ukraine” while the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights man reported a total of 17,023 victims in Ukraine”.

“Russia’s military aggression has triggered energy and food supply problems, exacerbating existing food system vulnerabilities that have already been weakened by the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The enormous impact of conflict on the health and well-being of people and societies is the case in all ongoing conflicts around the world.

Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan also condemned Russian aggression and its impact on the Ukrainian population and food security.

However, in response, Russia warned that “the politicization of the WHO agenda is unacceptable and it will simply lead to increased inequality and a deterioration of the situation in developing countries”.

American sexual and reproductive rights warning

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Global Public Affairs Loyce’s Rhythm

Meanwhile, the United States and Brazil have signaled they will oppose any attack on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Loyce Pace, US Under Secretary of State for Global Public Affairs, said the United States “prioritizes efforts to promote universal health coverage by strengthening primary health care and protecting people from catastrophic”.

In addition, Pace said, the United States is focused on “ensuring the health and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals and communities, because we will not condone intolerance or discrimination against any people. We look forward to EC discussions in this area.”

Last year’s World Health Assembly blocked for hours the inclusion of terms such as men who have sex with men in a technical paper on HIV, facing significant opposition from the public. from countries in the WHO Mediterranean and North Africa (MENA) region.

Brazil supported the United States, saying it “will also work with all partners to improve respect for human rights, particularly with regard to gender and racial equality, health and human rights. sexual and reproductive.

“We will fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and promote the rights of people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. In this regard, I would like to announce our intention to introduce the resolution on the health of indigenous peoples, a subject that has never been directly addressed before by the World Health Assembly, with the aim of guaranteeing the right to health according to their own needs and under their own administration,” said the representative of Brazil.

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