Pandemic-Proofing Global Health Infrastructure – WHO Director General Charts Way Forward
WHA delegates were shown a reminder of the global toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GENEVA – WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyusus has proposed five measures to strengthen the global health infrastructure to pandemic-proof the world in his WHA report on “Strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience”.

The pandemic accord and amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) are part of the measure on “international instruments”.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (PPPR) scheduled for September, falls under category two: “sustained political leadership”, along with the WHO’s proposed global health threats council – being disputed by various actors who want an independent monitoring body, arguing that the WHO can’t police itself.

As a way of trying to balance national sovereignty and mutual accountability, the WHO launched a pilot “Universal Health and Preparedness Review” in November 2020 that involved countries volunteering for independent feedback on how ready they are for health emergencies.

Tedros’s report proposes that this independent monitoring “should continue to complement national-level self-assessment and peer review, with strengthened roles for existing monitoring mechanisms, such as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board and the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme”. 


World Bank’s Priya Basu (left), who is the executive head of the Pandemic Fund secretariat.

Money is, of course, also a key measure and a number of WHA delegates have expressed concern that the global appetite to pandemic-proof the world is already waning. 

However, the Pandemic Fund launched a year ago has mobilised $2-billion to support low-and-middle-income countries to strengthen their health systems to cope with future pandemics, according to the World Bank’s Priya Basu, who is the executive head of the Pandemic Fund secretariat.

While World Bank analysis shows that LMICs countries will collectively need to invest $30-billion a year to ensure that their health systems are fit to address health emergencies.

The Fund’s first call for funding closed last week following “very strong demand” from LMICs amounting to more than triple the funds currently available, Basu told a WHA event on Tuesday.

In addition, Tedros reports that “deliberations as part of the G20 joint health and finance track [are] beginning to forge a consensus on the scale of needs and potential mechanisms to administer surge financing for large-scale pandemic and health emergency response”. 

Health system strengthening

The final measure proposed by Tedros’s report is for member states to strengthen their health systems around “the five Cs” – collaborative surveillance; community protection; safe and scalable care; access to countermeasures; and emergency coordination.

Throughout the WHA, countries have reported on how they are taking more seriously the threat of another pandemic.

A document on “collaborative surveillance” was launched on Tuesday, according to Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, WHO Assistant Director General for Health Emergency Intelligence and Surveillance Systems, and head of the WHO’s Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin.

The intention of the launch is to kick off the conversation on how member states can work together to share data to ward off health threats, Ihekweazu told a WHA event.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.