The first-ever virtual World Health Assembly (73rd WHA)

End of Day 1…

Today marked the first-ever virtual World Health Assembly (73rd WHA) to discuss the global COVID-19 response.

The World Health Assembly is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) highest decision-making body. It is usually held annually in Geneva Switzerland and attended by delegations from all WHO 194 Member States. Due to the #COVID19 pandemic, the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly was held as a virtual meeting for the first time ever.

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I joined the Canadian delegation (Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio, Public Health Agency of Canada) to the 73rd WHA in-person (but physically distanced!) to watch the opening of WHA, the election of president/vice-presidents for WHA, and member state interventions (including Canada’s by Minister of Health Patty Hadju).

As Canada’s youth delegate to the 73rd WHA, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to consult and engage with Canadian youth across the country on global public health issues that matter most to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m very proud of the Canadian youth that were engaged in the consultation process in advance of the @WHO #WHA73 on global public health issues in the context of the #COVID19 pandemic. The summary consultation document (a 26-page document) is only the tip of the iceberg of the many great conversations we had together!

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I was also really glad to see many items discussed with Canadian youth during the consultations process, reflected in the draft #COVID19 response resolution at @WHO #WHA73 – see full document online here: apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_f

Although @WHO #WHA73 won’t be focusing or addressing areas of universal health coverage or strengthening primary care directly – I’m glad to see such items included with an equity lens in the draft resolution on #COVID19 response #SDGs. As well as, many other areas of good work. From the initial online survey form used for the Canadian youth consultations process, universal health coverage and primary healthcare were ranked as the two most important priorities for #WHA73.

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It had become more and more clear through many interventions from various member states there was an interest in collaboration and commitment for unity at a time of global crisis. Many member states reaffirmed support for the @WHO and their leadership in tackling #COVID19 – and the need to invest in health through building resilient health systems and emergency preparedness #WHA73.

Canada’s Minister of Health @PattyHajdu addressed the @WHO 73rd World Health Assembly #WHA73 on the #COVID19 global response – reaffirming the trust in the leadership of the WHO and commenting on the need for collaboration and commitment on research and vaccine development, supporting vulnerable populations and mental wellness, and reviewing the global pandemic response.

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An area of great attention was on reviewing the WHO response to COVID19, despite many great items of discussion and recommendations called for in the draft resolution as well as the interim report on WHO’s response. 

The Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the @WHO Health Emergencies Programme produced an interim report on WHO’s response to COVID-19 (January-April 2020), released today, with many recommendations to @DrTedros, @WHO and the 194 member states (countries around the world). 

“The world is at a critical juncture in this unprecedented crisis and will not defeat this virus without greater global solidarity and stronger multilateral cooperation, and the execution of the forward-looking strategy required for the upcoming months of the pandemic.”

The Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee (IAOC) for the @WHO Health Emergencies Programme, which Dr. Theresa Tam @CPHO_Canada sits on, calls for many recommendations and considerations in this current #COVID19 pandemic and future emergencies in public health. Recommendations include:

  • review and update the International Health Regulations (IHR) to reflect lessons from the pandemic
  • stepped level of alerts, enhance transparency, focal points in gov’t to adequately raise the alarm to ministers
  • streamline the reporting process and support countries in strengthening capacity to report on the information required under the IHR
  • reassess @WHO Secretariat’s role in providing travel advice during a pandemic
  • review the IHR core capacities and existing tools and framework for national and international preparedness, and consider whether they need to be updated
  • revisit the size and surge capacity of the WHE Programme to ensure sufficient capacity, resilience and flexibility within and beyond the incident management system to respond adequately to such multidimensional and large-scale emergencies
  • review @WHO financing to ensure the WHE Programme is able to continue to play a key role in global health emergencies with appropriate capacities 
  • @WHO to continue engaging & working collaboratively with partners & global experts and disseminating best practice
  • that the WHE Programme make more robust use of @WHO collaborating centres around the world, expert networks, such as technical advisory bodies, and public health institutes
  • that @WHO promote the establishment of an appropriate multilateral governance mechanism for ensuring equitable access to therapeutics and vaccines for all countries and effective delivery and stewardship, drawing upon previous experience of epidemics and pandemics
  • intensifying basic public health measures at scale, investing in global health architecture for vaccine and drug development, securing the global supply of life-saving tools, strengthening local health care systems, and empowering communities through a calibrated approach
  • at an appropriate time, to independently assess @WHO performance during this response and identify lessons for the future
  • would caution that conducting such a review during the heat of the response, even in a limited manner, could disrupt WHO’s ability to respond effectively

Helpful links:

The Assembly will be webcast live at: who.int/about/governan
Further information about the Assembly in the 6 official UN languages can be found at: who.int/about/governan
An abridged preliminary Journal is available in 6 languages at:
apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_f
‘WHO and the WHA – an explainer’ An introduction to the World Health Organization, its vital role in the fight against COVID-19, and the first-ever virtual World Health Assembly: https://who.int/about/governance/world-health-assembly/seventy-third-world-health-assembly/the-who-and-the-wha-an-explainer?fbclid=IwAR2zNTlGhZ_zMx0Vhl4MjfxTHnDXvMO5OdyOBFvFNBpyU-6DwTlOtLsGGy4
Programme of work and agenda contents for @WHO #WHA73 in English: apps.who.int/gb/Journal/e/W
All related documents for @WHO #WHA73 available here: apps.who.int/gb/e/e_wha73.h

Draft resolution on #COVID19 Response: apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_f
Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, Interim report on WHO’s response to COVID-19 (January-April 2020): who.int/about/who_refo

Until tomorrow – more updates to come!

-yipeng

 

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