The World Health Organisation (WHO) began its 75th annual assembly last Saturday with the challenge of putting an end to the state of emergency which has been in force since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020 and tackling new challenges when it is all over, including trying to ensure that there is no other crisis like it.
The assembly at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, the European headquarters of the WHO, will continue until 28 May, during which time the health ministers of the 195 member countries will review the actions taken during the past year and set objectives for forthcoming years.
Although the WHO is expected to continue the international state of emergency caused by Covid-19 at least until July (the month in which the committee responsible for deciding whether to extend the situation or end it will meet), director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, confirmed this week that the matter will be discussed.
“We will look at how to end the state of emergency, among other things, increase access to vaccines, antiviral drugs and other essential tools,” he said. The WHO’s objective is for all countries to have vaccinated at least 70% of their populations against coronavirus by July.
The assembly will also look at ways of reforming the World Health Organization and international health regulations so the planet is better prepared for future pandemics, after it was obvious that with Covid-19, the worst in more than a century, the world was not prepared.
The changes may include greater financial power and independence for the WHO and creating new international regulations which oblige countries to report new and dangerous pathogens more quickly, although many of these reforms will take time to put into effect.
For the moment, the assembly will propose increasing the organisation’s budget by 14% for 2022/2023 and progressively increase the percentage of WHO funds from member states, so it depends less on donations and has greater autonomy.