Governments should now implement the resolution to reach goal of improving access to testing for all people
26 May 2023 – Governments passed a resolution today at the 76th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to strengthen countries’ diagnostic testing capacity. The resolution was proposed by Indonesia and governments of the African Region. With almost half of the global population having little or no access to testing, Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomed this resolution as an essential step towards improving global access to diagnostic tools. To ensure this resolution becomes reality, MSF encourages countries to immediately take the required steps to implement the resolution: countries should ensure that essential diagnostic tools and tests are affordable and accessible nationwide, and support local production of diagnostic tools and tests in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Dr Salha Issoufou, Director of Operations, MSF West and Central Africa:
“Ignorance is not bliss when you’re dealing with disease outbreaks: timely access to the right testing tools is one of the most critical parts of any medical intervention to curb an outbreak and save lives, so it’s encouraging to see access to testing being discussed at a global level.
“We are often faced with an absence or limited availability of tests, as there are often simply no tests on the market that are adapted for the remote, emergency situations we work in. So, we end up sending samples to far away laboratories, if there are any, which can mean weeks or months of waiting before getting results. Delays like this can mean delayed responses to outbreaks and lives being unnecessarily lost, and this is unacceptable. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way: the COVID pandemic showed us that rapid, easy-to-use diagnostic tests can be abundantly available, as they were to wealthy countries at the front of the queue. We know it’s possible to make tests accessible and available, there should be no double standard in access to lifesaving medical testing.
“We urge all governments to make sure everyone has access to lifesaving tests by swiftly adopting WHO guidelines in national policies, developing national essential diagnostics lists (EDL), and ensuring nationwide access to essential tests for all diseases relevant to the local context, including neglected diseases, and beyond pandemics alone.”
Stijn Deborggraeve, Diagnostics Advisor, MSF Access Campaign:
“We welcome this important resolution to strengthen diagnostics capacity, but it must not remain just ink on paper. To make it a reality for everyone, everywhere, we urge all governments to implement the resolution and improve access to diagnostic testing by ensuring that quality-assured tests are affordable, and by supporting the local production of diagnostic tools, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
“Every day we see test shortages in the countries where we work so it’s clear that relying on a few multinational diagnostics corporations to meet local health needs is not working. We need more successful collaborations between local test manufacturers and governments, like Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos, which produces testing tools at non-profit prices to address local health needs. Because, if we hope to improve access to testing for diseases that mainly affect people in low- and middle-income countries, local production in these countries is key.”