Giving Compass’ Take:
• UN Ambassador John E. Lange argues that although much progress has been made in improving global health security, everyone must recognize that much more needs to be done.
• How can we strengthen awareness and bring more funding to global health security?
• On a positive note, the United Nations reported that eleven countries have pledged donations to the World Health Organization.
The alarm bells are ringing again. A new infectious disease is spreading internationally, and the world is working to prevent another potential pandemic. Memories of earlier global health threats – from SARS to H1N1 to Ebola to Zika – come to the fore as we deal with the novel coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) emanating from Wuhan, China.
Certainly, improvements in global health security are bearing fruit in the current response. The WHO Health Emergencies Program – established in the wake of its slow response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa – has been quick to act, sending masks, respirators, and other supplies to dozens of countries that need support, in addition to sending diagnostic test kits to more than 70 laboratories. WHO is also working with dozens of partners to rapidly accelerate the critical research and development agenda for new vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as with social media companies to help combat the spread of misinformation and stigma. Additionally, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has briefed the UN Secretary-General and the UN senior management team to help ensure coordination across the entire UN system in responding to the outbreak.
A critical improvement in global health security – the International Health Regulations (IHR, adopted in 2005) – provide a public health response to the international spread of disease while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. The regulations, which are legally binding but lack an enforcement mechanism, obligate governments to notify WHO of events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), which China did on December 31, 2019. Many have criticized the Chinese government for a slow response when COVID-19 first appeared and for censoring information, but I shudder to think what could have transpired if the IHR global standards for reporting and responding did not exist.
Read the full article about improving global health security by John E. Lange at United Nations Foundation.
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