Agenda packed 68th World Health Assembly comes to a close

Carolyn Kavita Tauro, CNS Correspondent
The 68th World Health Assembly (WHA) held over the past week, from 18th May to 26th May, at Geneva was declared closed last night by the Indian Minister of Health, Mr. Jagat Prakash Nadda, elected President of the Assembly this year. Mr. Nadda said:  “We need to think locally before we act globally. We must find out the strengths and weaknesses of each country; find out what gaps remain and then strategize accordingly.”

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General, World Health Organisation (WHO), in her closing statement at the first ever live  webcasted WHA, promised to make the world proud. Dr. Chan said, "This was perhaps one of the most important World Health Assemblies...I commit to do the utmost... I am committed to do my part".

The World Health Assembly is a forum through which the WHO is governed by its 194 member states. Along with member states, non-member observers, NGO representatives, civil societies and media also attended the discussions over an agenda-packed week. Concurrent meetings among various stakeholders were held to discuss numerous vital issues that affect global health, like: Ebola, Poliomyelitis, Risk mapping in Yellow fever, Non-Communicable Diseases such as maternal, infant and young children's nutrition and childhood obesity, the global vaccine action plan, the global action plan on antimicrobial resistance, the global strategic plan for innovation, health and the environment, air pollution, strengthening emergency and surgical care, strengthening of health systems and the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) as well as a framework for engagement with non-state actors.

The assembly also approved a budget of US$ 4385 million for the financial period 2016–2017 . Member states shall contribute US $929 million and US$ 3456 million will come from voluntary contributions.

Allocation of the budget for the financial period 2016–2017 was as follows:
  1. Communicable diseases US$ 765 million
  2. Non-communicable diseases US$ 340 million
  3. Promoting health through the life course US$ 382 million 
  4. Health systems US$ 594 million 
  5. Preparedness, surveillance and response US$ 380 million
  6. Enabling functions/corporate services US$ 734 million
  7. Polio, Tropical disease research, and Research in human reproduction US$ 986 million
  8. Outbreak and crisis response US$ 204 million
Dr. Chan spoke about the landmark resolutions and decisions taken at WHA that are important for global health and development. Some of the resolutions passed on the last day included those on epilepsy, air pollution and on working towards a framework of engagement with non-State actors. Air pollution was discussed for the first time ever in the WHA with a resolution that asks the WHO Secretariat to strengthen its technical capacities to support member states to take appropriate action on the issue, and to also highlight the key role national health authorities need to play in raising awareness. Other resolutions included those on strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage and Global technical strategy and targets for malaria (2016–2030).

Mentioning some of the vital discussions and debates in the past few days, Dr Chan said that, "I will personally watch over important areas. WHO will reform to health in emergencies so that the world is better prepared - we will move ahead with a sense of urgency".

She also assured transparency and accountability in the working of the organisation. The WHO was also lauded for taking the step towards transparency by holding online webcasts of most of the sessions held during the week.

Carolyn Kavita Tauro, Citizen News Service - CNS 
27 May 2015