|Press Release WHO/6
1 February 1999
|WHO EXECUTIVE BOARD GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON
Agroundbreaking framework convention on tobacco control proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered momentum today with an Executive Board resolution calling on the 191 WHO Member States to participate in the drafting and negotiating the text of the convention. The resolution adopted at the closing of the 103rd session of the WHO Executive Board also recognizes the leadership of WHO in the field of tobacco control and its special project Tobacco Free Initiative.
At least 3,5 million human lives were lost in 1998 as a result of smoking and other forms of tobacco use worldwide, the Board was told by WHO experts. By 2030, the tobacco-related death toll is to top 10 million a year, with 70% of these deaths occurring in developing countries, if the pandemic is not controlled..
Expressing concern about the global burden of malaria which poses a serious threat to human development and is a significant cause of poverty and suffering, especially in the poorest countries of the world, the Board welcomed the decision by the WHO Director-General to establish the Roll Back Malaria project. Members of the Board noted that the project represents a new approach promoted by WHO, in which all parties are to work in a partnership, united by common goals and consistent strategies.
The Board appreciated the strong commitment to Roll Back Malaria from several heads of State, the Administrator of UNDP, the President of the World Bank, the Executive Director of UNICEF, and directors of other development banks, foundations and bilateral aid agencies.
In a resolution the Board requested the WHO Director-General to promote strategies and provide technical guidance to WHO Member States in their efforts to roll back malaria. It also calls for "promoting international investment in cost-effective new approaches and products". WHO is to broker the technical and financial assistance that is required for the success of this project.
The Board adopted a resolution reaffirming WHO's commitment to the global eradication of poliomyelitis by the end of the year 2000. Since the beginning of the global polio eradication campaign in 1988, the number of annually reported cases has fallen by 85% and now stands at just over 3000 cases. But there are still 50 polio endemic countries mostly in western and southern Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa, some of which are either affected by conflict or constitute densely populated wild poliovirus "reservoirs". The two major obstacles to polio eradication are civil strife and funding shortfalls. The grim reality of civil war was brought home by the Board Member from Angola: "We do our best to establish a truce between the warring parties so that we can conduct safely National Immunization Days. The next thing we know, our children die fully vaccinated".
That is why the resolution calls "to support the peace-building process by facilitating ceasefire for National Immunization Days in countries affected by conflict". The resolution urges WHO Member States to accelerate eradication activities, to sustain high levels of immunization coverage until eradication is certified globally and to maintain high quality surveillance for wild poliovirus importations. It also requests the Director-General to "help mobilize the necessary financing to implement eradication activities, including the establishment of an emergency fund to meet the needs of countries affected by conflict, countries classified as major wild poliovirus reservoirs, and other countries in particularly difficult circumstances".
Once polio has been eradicated the world will saving US$ 1,5 billion annually.
The Members of the Board noted with concern that one third of the world's population has no guaranteed access to essential drugs and that poor quality pharmaceutical raw materials and finished products continue to move in international trade. Drugs, they stressed, "continue to be irrationally used by prescribers, dispensers and the general public, adding that unethical promotion and a lack of access to independent drug information contribute to such abuse. In a resolution on WHO's Revised Drug Strategy, to be considered by the World Health Assembly, the Executive Board urges Member States to reaffirm their commitment "to taking all necessary concrete measures in order to ensure equitable access to essential drugs." The resolution also calls for the establishment and enforcement of "regulations that ensure good uniform standards of quality assurance for all pharmaceutical materials and products".
The Board reviewed WHO Director-General's budget proposals for 2000-2001, with several members welcoming the joint presentation of regular and extrabudgetary funds indicating total resources allocated to individual clusters.
Commenting on the proposed budget, Mrs Ann Kern, WHO Executive Director in charge of General Management, pointed out that "Thorough restructuring at headquarters resulting in nine clusters and 35 areas of work has been completed. With new administrative processes it has been possible to transfer approximately 20% of management and administrative resources to technical health areas where it is needed."
While praising the first strategic and results-based budget of the new WHO team, the Board asked for further information to be given to the World Health Assembly which will discuss and adopt a WHO budget for 2000-2001 at its next session from 17 to 25 May 1999.
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