World Health Assembly gives WHO green light to reform emergency and response progamme

23 May 2015

Geneva, 23 May 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — Delegates at the World Health Assembly made a series of decisions stemming from the 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak. These give the WHO Secretariat the go-ahead to carry out structural reforms so it can prepare for and respond rapidly, flexibly and effectively to emergencies and disease outbreaks.

Preparing for and responding to emergencies

Delegates at the 68th World Health Assembly welcomed WHO's commitment to deep reforms of its emergency work, in particular by setting out clear and effective command and control mechanisms across all three levels of the Organization — headquarters, regional and country offices.  At the same time, WHO will establish an emergency programme, which will be guided by an all-hazards health emergency approach, that emphasizes adaptability, flexibility and accountability, humanitarian principles, predictability, timeliness and country ownership.

WHO will set up a US$100-million contingency fund to provide financing for in-field operations for up to three months. The contingency fund will run initially as a two-year pilot and will then be evaluated.

Delegates appreciated the key coordination role played by WHO in its ongoing work to develop vaccines, diagnostics and drugs for Ebola virus disease. They noted the importance of being able to accelerate research and development activities to tackle health threats for which solutions do not currently exist. They also requested the Secretariat to continue and enhance WHO's work in helping countries better prepare for emergencies by strengthening national health systems.

International Health Regulations (2005)

The Director General was asked to set up a review committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) to:

  • assess the effectiveness of the International Health Regulations with regard to the prevention, preparedness and response to the Ebola outbreak
  • assess the status of implementation of recommendations from the previous Review Committee in 2011 and its impact on the Ebola outbreak
  • recommend steps to improve functioning, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the International Health Regulations and improve preparedness and response for future health emergencies.