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Proposed IHR amendments will address disease outbreaks, threats to global health – WHO

Proposed IHR amendments will address disease outbreaks, threats to global health - WHO

The World Health Organisation has called on governments across the world to carry out detailed, significant amendments to the World Health Organisation International Health Regulations 2005, so as to be better prepared to tackle outbreaks of deadlier diseases and handle emergencies.
According to the WHO, while disease outbreaks and other acute public health risks are often unpredictable and require a range of responses, the IHR 2005, provides an overarching legal framework that defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders.
The world health body said COVID-19 showed how vulnerable the world is and there was a need to fix the global public health architecture if the world would be well positioned to deal with bigger threats that may come after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The over 300 proposed amendments reached its fourth round of intensive discussions, taking place under the aegis of the Working Group on Amendments to the IHR, and the 196 State Parties to the IHR including WHO’s 194 Member States, a statement released by WHO stated.
It explained that the IHR was originally adopted to set out agreed approaches and obligations for countries to prepare for, and respond to disease outbreaks and other acute public health events with risk of international spread.
They recalled that the original International Sanitary Regulations were revised three times; in 1969, when it became IHR in 1981, and in 2005.
The world health body also noted that the version adopted in 2005, was amended twice in 2014 and 2022, while the most recent amendments have yet to come into force.
“We made excellent progress this week on important and substantive areas of the IHR, which the states parties had identified as key areas for revision in the wake of the experience with COVID-19,” said former Director-General of Health, New Zealand and Co-Chair of the IHR Working Group, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield.
She added, “COVID-19 showed the world how vulnerable we all are and what needed fixing in the global public health architecture if we are to be better prepared for the next big event and the tone of the discussions during last week’s meeting clearly shows that everyone wants to ensure that this process is successful.”
WHO in the statement revealed that throughout the five-day meeting from 24-28 July, the WGIHR stressed the importance of thoroughly considering the proposed amendments on their merits of filling critical gaps in the implementation of the IHR, while being mindful of the importance of the principles of equity, sovereignty, and solidarity.
Also speaking, Fellow, IHR Working Group Co-Chair, Dr. Abdullah Assiri, who is also Deputy Minister of Health, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said governments were committed to strengthening the IHR for the benefit of every country and every citizen.
“Countries are in the driver’s position for this process, as they propose essential amendments to the IHR and make decisions necessary to address threats to public health. This week, we have witnessed how their positive attitude and efficient work have enabled us to make substantial progress. Between now and the Working Group’s upcoming meeting in October, a great deal of diligence and effort will be required,” he said.
However, in line with the IHR amendments process, governments are also negotiating the drafting of a WHO instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, also referred to as a pandemic accord.
The INB and WGIHR held a joint plenary meeting on 21 and 24 July, to discuss the relationship between the processes and instruments, as well as topics of common interest to both processes.
According to the statement, “WHO Member States issued the International Sanitary Regulations in 1951, the precursor to the IHR, which came into being in 2005. The IHR are an instrument of international law that is legally binding on 196 State Parties, including the 194 WHO Member States.”
However, the discussed proposed amendments include responsible authorities (Article 4); notification, verification, and provision of information (Article 5, paragraph 5); determination of public health emergency of international concern (Article 12); the Emergency Committee (Articles 48, 49) and temporary and standing recommendations (Articles 15, 16, 17, 18).

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