Requirements and challenges for WHO Member States

The International Health Regulations (2005) will come into force on 15 June 2007. The new mandate given to Member States and WHO under the IHR(2005) has increased their respective roles and responsibilities. As this significant date draws nearer, countries of the world and WHO are making arrangements to ensure the immediate implementation of key surveillance, response and other national and international public health functions required under the IHR(2005).

Over 140 Member States have already established National IHR Focal Points and the Organization itself has designated WHO IHR Contact Points. This unique network establishes critical channels for urgent communications between WHO and States Parties to the IHR(2005) and will play a central role in the areas of event verification, assessment, notification, reporting and response to public health risks which may become emergencies of international concern.

Strengthening national surveillance and response systems to detect, assess and control disease threats and other public health risks, however, is only one of the many priorities on the health agendas of States Parties to the IHR(2005). Following its entry into force, States Parties have an initial two-year period to assess the ability of existing national structures and resources to meet the core surveillance and response capacities requirements set out in the IHR(2005) and to develop a plans of action to ensure that they are up and functioning.

This initial period will be followed by an additional three-year period to implement these plans of action with a view to bolstering national public health capacities. Should these five years not suffice, the IHR(2005) provide for two possible extensions of two years each until June 2016. An immense task lies ahead as States Parties develop plans to ensure that IHR(2005) implementation significantly contributes to a higher level of international health security. WHO is itself engaged in scaling up its activities to support countries in their plans at all levels. Implementing the IHR(2005) will require sustained national and multilateral commitment.

Progress on IHR(2005) implementation will be closely monitored through reports to the World Health Assembly by States Parties and the Director-General, including an annual report on the support provided by the Organization to its Member States on IHR(2005) compliance and implementation.

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