WHO Director-General, tells leaders to commit to health regulations


Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Wednesday called on countries, particularly African countries to commit industriously in the ongoing negotiations on amendments to international health regulations and the new pandemic agreement.

He said such amendments, which WHO members were currently negotiating would provide both a vital legal framework for enhanced preparedness for outbreaks.
Dr Ghebreyesus made the call at the opening of a three-day WHO-Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) High-Level Conference on Strengthening Health Security Preparedness in Parliament House, Accra.

Happening, in Accra, Ghana, the three-day event would provide parliamentarians from national parliaments and Pan-African Parliamentary bodies with a forum to exchange ideas, build political support, strengthen capacities and foster coordination in driving sustainable action for global health security.

It would also enhance the role of parliamentarians in strengthening health security and building health system resilience for the future of their respective countries.
Dr Ghebreyesus urged the countries to engage actively in the ongoing negotiations, especially African countries which are the most to gain from stronger health regulations and strong accord.

In a live stream speech at the Opening of the Conference, Dr Ghebreyesus urged specifically African countries, to build resilient health systems based on strong primary healthcare that would enable them to enhance their health security preparedness for outbreaks of pandemics.

“Building resilient health systems was the foundation of both health security and universal health coverage needed to contain pandemics,” he said.
Dr Ghebreyesus told the gathering that at the United Nations General Assembly world leaders had adopted political declarations with strong commitments on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response and universal health coverage.

He said as Parliamentarians, lawmakers were uniquely positioned to transform those commitments into reality and that the WHO was committed to supporting them in doing that.

The Director-General also noted that WHO and IPU published a handbook for Parliamentarians on strengthening health security preparedness through legislation, finance, governance and accountability, last year with a special focus on cross-sector coordination.

“This is particularly important in Africa where preparedness is weak and underfunded and multi-sectoral coordination is lacking,” he said.
He thanked countries for their commitment to harnessing the power of Parliaments for a safer, healthier and fairer Africa.

Mr Martin Chungong, the Secretary General of the IPU, addressing participants remarked that COVID-19 and other pandemics had caused loss of lives and suffering, particularly in Africa, a reason why concentrating efforts on prevention and preparedness were required.

He expressed worry at how health systems could no longer cope with outbreaks, a range of health services were disrupted, with individuals and families became sick and no longer able to contribute to their communities and economies, putting hard-won socio-economic gains at risk.

Mr Chungong pledged the commitment of the IPU to mobilise the Parliamentary community to be more involved in the processes of pandemic accord negotiations.
According to him, while health preparedness required legislation, ratification and budget it was important to see how Parliaments could play a role upstream during the negotiating process.
“We do know that when it comes to concluding treaties internationally that is the prerogative of the executive arms of governments, but we do think it is important for these treaties to be informed by the views and interests of the people.

“And those views and interests of the people can best be articulated by members of Parliaments. So, I suggest that we be forthcoming in our effort to contribute to that treaty so that when it does land on the table of Parliament, it will find allies for ratification, budgetary allocation and for accountability mechanism,” he said.
Mr Chungong urged colleague MPs to ensure those international processes were followed up at the national level with efficiency.

On his part, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the Minister of Health, said health emergencies exerted heavy tolls on African health systems and economies, threatening to erase decades of hard-earned gains.

To that end, he said progress had been made in the work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to draft and negotiate a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and the working group on the International Health Regulations to consider amendments to international health regulations were remarkable.

“Ghana sides with the position of the Africa Group and intends to engage more technical experts and other stakeholders including the Parliamentary Select Committees to further review the documents.

“We are very much committed to ensuring that the country is very much prepared for any future pandemics,” he said.

In a speech read on his behalf by Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Alban Bagbin, the Speaker of Parliament, urged the participants to be the voice of the communities they serve to continually strengthen mechanisms for partnerships and multisectoral collaborations.

They should also increase advocacy for investment in health systems for health security; and explore ways of making better use of innovative approaches and new technologies for data collection, analysis and timely information sharing.
“Let us as lawmakers within our countries empower the WHO to play its key role,” he said.

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