Countries participating in World Health Organization meetings this week discuss how to prepare for future pandemics, amid warnings that the world may be exposed to a future crisis.
The organization’s emergency director Michael Ryan said on Wednesday that poor public health services and poor city management are exacerbating infectious diseases.
Speaking about the spread of monkeypox in areas where it does not occur, he said the spread of the virus “is directly related to our inability or unwillingness to manage these risks early in the cycle of epidemic generations.”
The Covid crisis has exposed major flaws in global health systems and countries agreed last year on the need for many changes to better prepare the world for future threats.
As the World Health Assembly (the World Health Organization’s decision-making body) meets this week, the 194 member states are calling for progress in closing the preparedness gaps that have contributed to the global spread of Covid, which has claimed millions of lives and destroyed economies.
Ryan also warned of surveillance loopholes.
And the number of Covid studies conducted by many countries of the world has decreased in recent months, meaning the virus is likely to spread and mutate if there is no follow-up.
“We need data. We’re losing the ability to predict what this epidemic will be and the ability to anticipate the emergence of another,” Ryan said.
In turn, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned countries that there was no more time to lose.
He said before the meeting that “building emergency preparedness, response and resilience is an urgent priority as the epidemic has revealed that the world was ready and still is not.”
Amendments are being considered to the International Health Regulations, a set of legally binding international laws that govern how countries respond to acute global health risks.
Negotiations are also underway for a new “legal instrument” (potentially a treaty) aimed at defining a coordinated global approach to preparedness and response.
A report on the new tool will be presented to the World Health Assembly for the year 2023, while the final outcome will be presented for consideration at the 2024 meeting.
“A legally binding instrument that represents a promise to future generations to ensure the world can respond to the next pandemic or health emergency,” Tedros said.
The International Health Regulations (IHR) passed in 2005 set out the rights and obligations of states when dealing with health emergencies that can spread.
It also defines what can be described as a public emergency of international concern, the highest level of risk on the WHO scale.