76th World Health Assembly Daily update: Progress and challenges in women’s, children’s and adolescent health 25 May
AMTV/GENEVA, May 25 – The World Health Assembly delegates in Committee A discussed progress against the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent Health (2016-2030). During the discussion, which took place over two days, drawing comments from a high number of Member States, the delegates strongly reiterated their commitment to the Strategy as a priority for global health and expressed alarm about stalling progress in improving maternal and newborn survival.
The Director-General’s report on the Strategy presented to the World Health Assembly expressed alarm that maternal mortality rates have stagnated since 2016. Furthermore, if current trends continue, it said, 54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for under-five mortality and 63 countries will not achieve the SDG target for neonatal mortality. Levels of violence against women and girls remain alarmingly high, while mental health challenges represent an increasing health threat for adolescents.
Delegates emphasized the importance of an integrated, life-course approach to improve outcomes, including access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as greater efforts and investment to accelerate progress in the poorest, fragile and conflict-affected countries.
Member States urge WHO to keep momentum on work to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct
Committee B this afternoon discussed the Prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (Item 22.1) as part of the Review of and update on matters considered by the Executive Board (Item 22, Pillar 4)
The Committee heard the recommendations of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board and the Committee’s Chair opened the floor. Australia spoke on behalf of 61 Member States from across WHO’s regions; Botswana spoke on behalf of the 47 African Region Member States; Israel, India, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Kenya, the United States of America, South Africa, Maldives, Ecuador, Bangladesh and Peru also took the floor.
All speakers acknowledged the significant progress made by WHO in tackling sexual misconduct and welcomed both the new Policy on Addressing Sexual Misconduct (PASM), launched in March 2023, and the three-year strategy to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, launched in January this year. Member States highlighted the need for the conclusion of the cases relating to the response to the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2018-2019) including holding perpetrators to account and supporting victims and survivors comprehensively. They welcomed WHO’s transparency in publishing dashboards capturing both investigations and disciplinary action taken. They encouraged WHO to continue to make progress and lead by example within the UN system. Member States stressed that preventing and responding to sexual misconduct is a shared responsibility and they will continue to support WHO.
The Director-General thanked Member States for their support and reminded Member States that WHO is focusing on four areas: changing the organizational culture – a process that takes time; having safe and trusted reporting mechanisms in place; ensuring swift and credible investigations and setting deadlines for the end-to-end process (200 days); and following a victim and survivor-centered approach.
Sustainable financing: feasibility of a replenishment mechanism
The Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly adopted the recommendations of the Working Group on Sustainable Financing, requesting WHO to explore the feasibility of a replenishment mechanism to broaden further the financing base.
In response, WHO submitted an assessment of the feasibility of such replenishment mechanism. Member States noted the report and reaffirmed the need for more sustainable, predictable and flexible financing of WHO. The report summarizes the analysis of the six principles that are to serve as the basis for considering a WHO replenishment mechanism and proposes the major elements of a first “WHO investment round” to implement such a mechanism in 2024.
Member States adopted a decision welcoming the continued effort to sustainably finance WHO and requested a plan for the First Investment Round in 2024, in closer consultation with Member States, for the EB in January 2024.
Results Report 2022, Financial report and audit for year ended 31 December 2022
Financing and implementation Programme Budget 22-23 and outlook of Programme Budget 24-25
Member States welcomed the Results Report and the detailed work found therein. Further progress is needed to achieve the triple billion targets towards attaining the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and meeting other health challenges.
The mid-term review of the Programme Budget 2022–2023 shows that, despite the progress in 2022 towards the triple billion targets, outcomes and outputs, based on the GPW 13 results framework, the world is not on track to meet the targets. While much has been achieved, further urgent action is needed to achieve the goals.
In addition, key accomplishments and selected impact case studies are highlighted in the report to exemplify how the Secretariat and Member States work together to drive health impact at the country level, where it matters most.
The Health Assembly noted the Results Report.
Member States also noted the reports on financing and implementation of the Programme Budget. Despite positive trends, as of 31 March 2023, the base programmes of WHO have a funding gap of US$ 443.8 million, after including projections of voluntary contributions. The current gap is compounded by the challenge of persisting “pockets of poverty” – underscoring the urgent need for more sustainable financing.
Delegates support maintaining momentum and innovations to end TB
Today delegates at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly participated in a Strategic Roundtable on Ending TB by 2030: Universal access to care, multisectoral collaboration, and innovations to accelerate progress and combat antimicrobial resistance.
TB, a treatable and curable communicable disease, remains a top infectious killer, claiming 1.6 million lives and affecting millions of additional lives and livelihoods annually.
Ministers of health, leaders from civil society, partner organizations and WHO shared first-hand reflections on global and national leadership and innovations to end TB, as well as challenges and concerns, including increasing threats of antimicrobial resistance.
Dr Atul Gawande, Deputy Administrator, USAID and Ambassador Zbigniew Czech, Permanent Representative of Poland to the UN Office in Geneva, highlighted the importance of building stronger partnerships and integrating TB services into primary health care.
Delegates heard stories of halted and reversed progress; Dr Ethel Leonor Noia Maciel, Secretary of Health, Brazil noted declining rates of TB service coverage during the pandemic while also highlighting the need for shared responsibility and resources across sectors to tackle the core drivers of the TB epidemic.
There were stories of resilience too; Sylvia Masebo, Minister of Health, Zambia, which is one of the 30 high TB burden countries, reported that the country managed to maintain progress despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and shared lessons learned on how combating TB and COVID-19 could strengthen pandemic preparedness. Mr Setiaji, Deputy Minister for Health Technology, Indonesia described the country’s new innovative national health financing strategy, its efforts to provide equitable TB services and the country’s commitment to advance TB research, in particular for new vaccine development.
Top leaders in the fight against TB noted the importance of the political momentum in the lead up to the upcoming second UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB which will take place in September. The HLM can provide the political impetus needed to turn the tide in the fight against TB and fast-track progress to attain the critical TB related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.