22 May 2001
WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY ENDORSES WHO’S STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
After eight days of intense deliberations the 54th World Health Assembly closed its business in Geneva today. The biggest event in the annual calendar for the World Health Organization (WHO), the Assembly charts the global course for the Organization and its 191 Member States in dealing with major public health threats.
For the first time in the history of the Organization, the United Nations Secretary-General addressed the Assembly. In his AIDS-focused speech, Mr Kofi Annan outlined the structure of a multi-billion dollar Global AIDS and Health Fund to fight HIV/AIDS and "other infectious diseases that blight the prospects for many developing countries – starting with TB and malaria".
In a resolution on the global response to HIV/AIDS, Member States to the Assembly called on WHO Director-General to "take an active part, together with other international actors, in the development and establishment of a global HIV/AIDS and health fund and to maintain close collaboration with the international community and the private sector with the aim of providing the availability of medicines for HIV/AIDS, including antiretroviral therapy".
The resolution urges Member States to "scale up their responses to HIV/AIDS, with particular emphasis on building up partnerships across sectors". It also addresses the issue of access to medicines, calling on the international community to "cooperate constructively in strengthening pharmaceutical policies and practices, including those applicable to generic drugs and intellectual property regimes, in order further to promote innovation and development of domestic industries consistent with international law".
Another important resolution linked to access to drugs was the one on WHO medicines strategy. Highlighting the fact that one-third of the human population still lacks access to essential drugs, the resolution urges Member States to promote equitable access to medicines. It requests the WHO Director-General to "stimulate the development of drugs for diseases whose burden lies predominantly in poor countries" and to "enhance efforts to study and report on existing and future health implications of international trade agreements". It also speaks of the need for "systems for voluntary monitoring drug prices and reporting global drug prices with a view to improving equity in access to essential drugs in health systems.
A comprehensive resolution on Infant and young child nutrition was adopted marking the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The resolution calls on Member States to "protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for six months as a global public health recommendation, and to provide safe and appropriate complementary foods, with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond". The resolution also addresses the risk of HIV transmission through breastfeeding, calling for further independent research in this area.
Member States also called for increased transparency and vigilance over the influence of tobacco transnationals on global tobacco control.
"The tobacco industry has operated for years with the expressed intention of subverting the role of governments and of the World Health Organization in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic," said the Assembly in the resolution it adopted on tobacco.
The resolution states that public confidence would be enhanced by transparency of affiliation between delegates to the Health Assembly, and other WHO meetings, and the tobacco industry. It urges countries "to be aware of affiliations between the tobacco industry and members of their delegations." It also calls on WHO to continue to keep Member States informed about the activities of the tobacco industry.
One-third of the world’s population is infected by schistosomes and soil-transmitted helminths worldwide with 300 million experiencing severe morbidity. These infections are invariably more prevalent in the poorest sections of the least developed countries. Repeated chemotherapy with safe, single-dose affordable drugs at regular intervals keeps the infection at bay. The Assembly adopted a resolution urging Member States to "ensure access to essential drugs against schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminth infections in all health services in endemic areas for the treatment of children, women and other groups at risk of morbidity, with a goal of attaining a minimum target of regular administration of chemotherapy to at least 75% of all school-age children at risk of morbidity by 2010".
At the beginning of the 21st century, epidemics ranging from cholera or meningitis to Ebola and Lassa fever continue to pose all-too-real health risks to global health security. In the last four years, WHO has verified over 800 outbreaks of international importance. The Assembly adopted a resolution on Global health security: epidemic alert and response, expressing support for collaboration between WHO and all potential technical partners in the area of epidemic alert and response, including the current work on the revision of International Health Regulations. The resolution urges Member States to "participate actively in the verification and validation of surveillance data and information concerning health emergencies of international concern, together with WHO and other technical partners".
The Assembly endorsed the second edition of the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH-2), giving it the new title International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The Assembly urged Member States to use the ICF in their research, surveillance and reporting.
The Assembly adopted a zero-growth regular budget for 2002-2003. The total regular budget remains the same as in previous biennium at US$ 842.6 million. WHO expects extra-budgetary resources in the biennium 2002-2003 to grow by 25% compared to the current biennium.
The Assembly agreed on Member States’ contributions to the regular budget. "The compromise that was reached…was a real success – for us all," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General. "But assessed contributions during the next biennium do not fully cover our regular budget so I am heartened by the obvious willingness of many member States to contribute generously to miscellaneous income. In this way, they will ensure that the funds available for spending cover both the budget and the additions we need for priorities."
For further information, please contact Mr Valery Abramov, Office of the Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 25 43. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. Email : email@example.com.
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