GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Monday that it must be “at the centre” of a global healthcare system, while also acknowledging the need for internal reforms.
The World Health Assembly from May 22-28 is seen as one of the most important in the UN health agency’s 75-year history, as it seeks to define its future role in global health policy and get approval for a funding overhaul.
“We need a stronger and sustainably financed WHO, at the centre of the global health security architecture,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a major speech at the WHO’s annual assembly.
But he added: “There have been many calls for WHO to change. And there is no question that more change is needed.”
The WHO is under scrutiny after an independent panel described it as “underpowered” when COVID-19 struck, with limited powers to investigate outbreaks and coordinate containment measures.
However, its 194 member states are seen as split over whether it deserves new powers after its handling of COVID.
“Some members are saying the WHO did what it could during the pandemic and want to strengthen its authority and others are very disillusioned with the WHO and … are very divided on whether it should be given more powers,” said Adam Kamradt-Scott, a professor of Global Health at the School of Transnational Governance.
In the same speech, Tedros said COVID is far from over and that the world was not ready for the next pandemic, echoing the findings of a major report last week.
“It’s clear that the world was and remains unprepared for a pandemic,” he said.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Mrinalika Roy; Editing by Catherine Evans)
Photo – The logo and building of the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. EPA-EFE/MARTIAL TREZZINI