75 Years of the WHO

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    In News

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) marks its 75th anniversary on 7 April 2023.

    About

    • In April 1945, politicians from around the world gathered in San Francisco to establish the United Nations.
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) was born three years later, when its constitution came into effect on April 7, 1948.
    • It states that health is a human right that every human being is entitled to, “without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition” and that “the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security.”

    World Health Organization (WHO)

    • It is a specialised agency of the United Nations with a mandate to act as a coordinating authority on international health issues.
    • It was founded in 1948 and has headquarters at Geneva, Switzerland. 
    • It has 194 Member States, 150 country offices, six regional offices.
    • It works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.

    Successes of WHO

    • Eradication of smallpox: One of the biggest successes in the WHO’s quest to ensure the global population’s well-being came in 1980, when the organization officially announced it had wiped out a common but deadly centuries-old infectious disease.
      • Smallpox eradication was a perfect example of when the WHO works best
    • Health as a human right: Efforts helped in realising the goal of health as a human right.

    Failed attempts of WHO

    • The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone offers an example of a WHO job less well done.
    • The organization’s agreement to give up on trying to eradicate malaria in the 1960s represents another example of what some consider a botched job.
      • The WHO launched the Global Malaria Eradication Programme (GMEP) in 1955. But there was little to no progress in sub-Saharan Africa under the program, and in many places, failure to sustain GMEP actually led to a resurgence of malaria. In 1969, the program was discontinued.
    • In the COVID-19 pandemic the WHO was criticized for not doing enough to support member states in their fight against the disease.

    Need for WHO Reforms

    • Lack of funding: Any attempt to build a stronger WHO must first begin with increased mandatory funding by member states.
    • Providing more powers: It is time to provide the agency with more powers to demand that member states comply with the norms and to alert WHO in case of disease outbreaks that could cause global harm.
      • WHO does not have the authority to enforce its recommendations.
    • Lack of information sharing: The long delay and the reluctance of China to readily and quickly share vital information regarding the novel coronavirus, including the viral outbreak in Wuhan.
    • Member states do not face penalties for non-compliance: This has to change for any meaningful protection from future disease outbreaks.

    Changes Made 

    • After the Ebola epidemic from 2014 to 2016, the WHO made significant changes to its structure. One example: It now relies to a lesser degree on national governments for crucial health information, thus lowering the chances of missing the start of another serious disease outbreak.
    • WHO also cooperates with tech companies.

    Way Forward/ Suggestions

    • Build global solidarity for worldwide health security: WHO will work with countries to improve their own preparedness for pandemics and health emergencies. But for this to be effective, we will ensure that countries work together.
    • Advance health for all: WHO will work across all three levels of the Organisation and with partners worldwide to help countries strengthen systems so that they can respond to COVID-19 and deliver all the essential health services required to keep people of all ages healthy close to home and without falling into poverty.
    • Tackling health inequities: The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the deep disparities that persist between and within countries, some of which are being exacerbated and risk widening even further. 
    • Provide global leadership on science and data: WHO will monitor and evaluate the latest scientific developments around COVID-19 and beyond, identifying opportunities to harness those advances to improve global health.
    • Revitalise efforts to tackle communicable diseases: WHO and partners have worked resolutely to end the scourge of polio, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and to avert epidemics of diseases like measles and yellow fever.
    • Build back better: Manifesto for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19, with its goals of addressing climate change and health, reducing air pollution and improving air quality, can play a major role in making this happen.

    Source: IE