Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly – Daily update: 26 May 2023


Member States expressed alarm that millions cannot access life-saving and health-enhancing interventions. Out-of-pocket spending on health catastrophically affects over 1 billion people, pushing hundreds of millions into extreme poverty. The situation has aggravated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, Member States agreed on a resolution supporting preparations for the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in September 2023. UHC means that all people have entry to the full range of grade health services they need without financial hardship.
In a transformative policy shift, Member States across high-, middle- and low-income countries expressed a strong commitment to reorienting their health systems based on primary health care (PHC) as a foundation for achieving health for all and reaching the furthest left behind first. About 90% of UHC interventions can be delivered using a PHC approach, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, potentially saving 60 million lives by 2030.

Opening Remarks and Agenda Overview

The Member States emphasized the importance of demonstrating the highest-level political commitment at the HLM in September to achieve this, resulting in a concise, action-oriented declaration for UHC.
As the world faces ongoing health and humanitarian emergencies, the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly (WHA), which will take place from 21-30 May, opened today in Switzerland at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Discussions will focus on the sustainable financing of the World Health Organization (WHO) as it reaches its 75th anniversary, as well as the critical role of the firm in the Global Health Emergency Architecture.
“As we mark WHO’s 75th anniversary, we can be proud of our past achievements, but we must be mindful of lessons learned as we transition from the emergency phase of COVID-19 and create a future where every person has access to the health services they need,” WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said. “This means strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience, supporting countries on the road to universal health coverage, and building a stronger, sustainably funded and accountable WHO.”
Discussions at the WHA will focus on strengthening preparedness and replying to health emergencies, as well as areas including women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health; universal health coverage and primary health care; traditional medicine; infection prevention and control; migrant health; non-communicable diseases; and mental health.

Strengthening Health Systems and Primary Healthcare

At this year’s seven-day meeting, global preparedness for health emergencies, sustainable financing for WHO, and the health crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine featured prominently. During the meeting, diplomats tussled over a report detailing the health situation in Ukraine. The report documented more than 14,000 civilian casualties and 448 attacks with heavy weapons on Ukrainian healthcare facilities.
The Russian Federation contested the report, contending that it was not objective. Other Member States also called for data in the information to be updated since the figures were from October 2022. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, said the report was written: “truthfully and in good faith.” The Secretariat assured that work would continue on the information to provide “comprehensive, balanced, and validated data.”
Just as the board was wrapping up its deliberations, the earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria, imperilling health and health care there. WHO quickly established incident management teams in the affected areas and is activating its network of emergency medical teams to provide care for critically injured people.

Protecting and Promoting Maternal and Child Health

“We will work closely with all spouses to support authorities in both countries in the censorious hours and days forward and in the months and years to come as both countries recuperate and rebuild,” Dr Tedros said.
These unexpected developments and the planned EB agenda effectively raised the curtain on the 2023 global health policy agenda. This year, countries are set to engage in crucial negotiations on a new pandemic accord and amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR). They are also expected to hold seminal meetings in New York in September on universal health coverage and pandemic preparedness, response, and resilience. With these high-stakes moments across the calendar and robust discussion kicking off at the EB level, 2023 could become a watershed year for global cooperation on health.

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Olivia Wilson

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