Statement |

138th WHO EB - “International Health Regulations: A good framework with weak foundations”

138th WHO EB - “International Health Regulations: A good framework with weak foundations” - Agenda Item 8.1

Médecins Sans Frontières welcomes the initiatives to strengthen the application of the International Health Regulations (IHR). Although the IHR were revised in 2005 to better address epidemic threats following SARS, two-thirds of countries were still failing to meet their core capacity requirements as of 2014 . MSF’s teams witness these weaknesses daily. Epidemics in resource-poor settings still cause an unacceptable number of avoidable deaths, exposing dysfunctional health services with critical shortages of qualified health staff and resources, as well as the lack of political will of national authorities and global health institutions. 

The West Africa Ebola epidemic was a clear example of where the IHR failed in its stated ambitions to prevent, detect, and respond to an outbreak of infectious disease. It was however, just the tip of the iceberg.

The measles epidemic in Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo with extremely high mortality figures, has illustrated once again that development policies and preventive strategies alone are not adequate and have failed to reach their objective in fragile States. These outbreaks often occur in areas where the reported vaccination coverage should in principle preclude or decelerate such epidemics.  A well-functioning health system requires the resources to equally integrate the four main components of prevention, detection, alert and response to outbreaks of infectious disease. Any of these components alone are meaningless without the capacity to deliver direct care to patients, which is also a critical condition to save lives and gain the trust of the community.