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Emmanuel Macron on Sunday asked the member countries of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO, to support a resolution condemning Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, and “reaffirmed the full solidarity of France and the European Union with Ukraine”.
The war in Ukraine and its attendant hunger and disease will weigh on the discussions of the 194 member countries of the WHO this week, in an attempt to build a reform of the global health system, the weaknesses of which have been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Where war goes, hunger and disease follow close behind,” WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned in an emotional opening speech at the World Health Assembly. and memories, those of “a child of war” in Ethiopia. “Peace is essential to health”, he hammered, before launching: “Peace! Peace! Peace!”
But it is indeed the war launched by Russia against Ukraine, which will partly occupy the delegates. French President Emmanuel Macron called on the members of the organization to adopt, on Tuesday, a resolution initiated by Ukraine, which denounces the attacks perpetrated by Moscow on the health system but also the serious consequences of the invasion on food in many countries, which depend on the Ukrainian grain basket and Russian fertilizers.
If the text strongly condemns Russia, it does not provide “in any case for expulsion”, however argued a Western diplomat.
Many countries believe that health cooperation is a separate area that should be preserved.
This war “does not make us forget that many other emergencies, on the rest of the planet, must continue to mobilize us. The pandemic in the first place”, underlined the French president.
Money, nerve of health
From Monday, the Ministers of Health should succeed one another at the podium for this first face-to-face Assembly since the start of the pandemic, and we will get into the hard part: the sustainable financing of the WHO.
The Organization – to which some conspirators nevertheless lend the desire to control health in the world – only has a two-year budget of around 6 billion dollars.
The problem is that mandatory membership dues only account for 16% of the total budget in 2020-21. The rest – voluntary contributions – are more difficult to plan, to obtain and often these sums are earmarked for a specific purpose.
The idea is to gradually increase the share of compulsory contributions to 50%, over a period of ten years to allow the WHO to better play its role, but not without reforming itself in return.
“There is no better investment than health,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare what is not working in the global health system.
The Assembly will therefore look into revamping the International Health Regulations (IHR), to enable a more effective and rapid response to health emergencies.
In the same vein, the Assembly should decide on the creation of a Standing Committee on Emergencies stemming from the WHO Executive Board and activating within 24 hours in the event of a health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alert of the WHO.
At the same time, work has been launched on a new international agreement on global health, which for its supporters should be binding, and could complement the RSI.
In December, an intergovernmental negotiating group was set up to work on this.
As a matter of fact, cases of monkeypox – a disease endemic to parts of Africa – are spreading across North America and Europe, and while most cases are currently mild, the spectrum of a new large-scale crisis worries the health authorities.