Statement |

140th WHO EB - Intervention - Agenda Item 7.1 Health Emergencies and WHO Reform: A reality check

Speaker: Barbara Rehbinder

While MSF has welcomed initiatives such as the creation of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, the strengthening of the International Health Regulations and the new Blueprint for Research and Development for emerging infectious diseases, last year, the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and DRC, and the acute nutritional crisis in northeast Nigeria highlighted remaining difficulties in meeting the needs of populations affected by health emergencies.

In both cases, there has been a delayed recognition of the crisis’ scale and a lack of leadership to properly prioritise needs and ensure a timely response. This resulted in unnecessary suffering and deaths.

Several factors contributed to these failures, including unclear medical leadership responsibilities between national and international health authorities, and an overreliance on surveillance mechanisms versus concrete response capacity.

With increasingly complex, frequent and severe emergencies, MSF urges Member States to support effective WHO leadership for response to health emergencies, also recognizing that WHO must be able to confront them to ensure timely and effective emergency interventions.

Member States should also empower WHO’s local capacities. Effective and timely emergency response demands that recruitment at country level be expedited and prioritised.

Furthermore, the Incident Management System must be better customized and adapted according to the needs of communities; it should harness the active contribution of communities and local capacity. Space must remain for independent assessment and action to fill potential gaps and ensure that the needs of affected people are met in an effective, timely manner.

Lastly, Member States should encourage WHO’s efforts to establish the Blueprint for Research and Development to allow R&D to be “de-linked, needs-driven, evidence-based, considered a shared responsibility”; thereby ensuring affordability, efficacy and equity of access to developed products. For all activities under the WHO Blueprint, important work remains to expand and encourage representation from affected countries, civil society organisations and other developing countries.