WHO chief hails world leaders’ ‘historic’ commitment to avert next pandemic

WHO chief hails world leaders' ‘historic' commitment to avert next pandemic

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 (APP): UN Member States Wednesday pledged to prevent a repeat of the devastating health and socio-economic crises caused by COVID-19 and shore up the world’s ability to head off another pandemic.

Adopting a milestone political declaration at the first-ever summit on pandemic prevention and response, nations also committed to getting back on track to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“[This] is a historic milestone in the urgent drive to make all people of the world safer, and better protected from the devastating impacts of pandemics,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), a Geneva-based UN agency, said in a statement.

“I welcome this commitment by world leaders to provide the political support and direction needed so that WHO, governments, and all involved can protect people’s health and take concrete steps towards investing in local capacities, ensuring equity, and supporting the global emergency health architecture that the world needs.”

Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq was among the world leaders who addressed the summit. In his speech, he urged the international community to ensure better preparedness through legally binding obligations for building resilience against future pandemics.

Wednesday’s declaration was the result of months of intense negotiations to refine and agree on actions at the national, regional, and global levels. It will be submitted to the General Assembly in due course for formal endorsement.

The political declaration asserts the need for Member States to conclude negotiations on a formal agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, known also as the Pandemic Accord – and make targeted amendments to International Health Regulations – by May next year.

It also calls on States to address the negative physical and mental health impacts of health-related misinformation, disinformation, hate speech, and stigmatization, especially on social media platforms.

Instead, it calls for public information campaigns based on science and the facts.

Member States are also committed to strengthening health workforces and rapid response capacities, surveillance, and local manufacturing abilities, so countries can meet their own needs to prevent, prepare for and respond to pandemics.

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recalled that the global response to COVID-19 showcased both human ingenuity and exposed society’s shortcomings.

While rapid test and vaccine development were notable achievements, there were also a lack of preparedness, disproportionate impacts on the world’s poorest and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations.

“We must not repeat the mistakes of the past when the next pandemic strikes – as we know it will – and other health threats emerge,” he said.

Reiterating the importance of the declaration, the UN chief urged countries to support the WHO, including increasing their financial contributions.

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