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WFSA statements at 154th WHO Executive Board Meeting

WFSA issues statements on infection prevention and control, universal health coverage, WHO’s work in health emergencies, and the 14th general programme of work to the Executive Board meeting held in Geneva from 22 – 27 January 2024.

Individual statements

Statement made by Prof Walid Habre, WFSA Director of Partnerships.

Agenda Item: 8. Draft global action plan for infection prevention and control

Anaesthesiologists play a crucial leadership role in IPC, ensuring that patients receive the highest level of protection against healthcare-associated infections.

Many member states still lack an integrated approach to inter-connected issues in IPC and clinical management, such as surgical site infections, sepsis and antimicrobial resistance.

The World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists, representing over 500,000 anaesthesiologists from over 140 countries, welcomes the Global Health Action Plan. To achieve the plan‘s goal of improving patient outcomes WFSA calls on Member States to:

  • Collaborate with anaesthesiologists in developing and implementing integrated IPC initiatives.
  • Mitigate chronic IPC workforce deficiencies by investing in training and continuous education.
  • Intensify efforts to strengthen early detection, diagnosis and therapy of sepsis, ensuring synergy with antimicrobial stewardship and IPC programmes.

Constituency statements

Constituency statements are issued by a minimum of 5 Non-State Actors(NSAs). The statements are convened and delivered by a lead NSA with the content of the statement agreed by the constituency members. WFSA participated in the following constituency statements:

Agenda item 6: Universal health coverage

Statement Convenor International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation

The continual deprivation of essential health services and the stagnation observed in the UHC Service Coverage Index amid the pandemic, particularly in low and middle-income countries, necessitates immediate attention. We note with concern that a quarter of the world’s population currently faces substantial financial hardships as a result of out-of-pocket health spending, with far-reaching consequences for the most vulnerable groups. Recalling UHC as both a fundamental right and a cornerstone for a resilient and equitable global health setting, we strongly advocate for a strategic shift towards a primary healthcare approach and a patient-centred care that recognises individual needs and cultural diversity to foster responsiveness and inclusivity in healthcare delivery.

Additionally, access to lifesaving medicines and care for children is inadequate and not covered by national healthcare insurance. Therefore, we call upon all Member States to prioritise UHC in national agendas and provide access to medicines and care for every child, every age, everywhere. This necessitates a dual focus on strategic resource allocation and the fortification of the health workforce. Acknowledging the pivotal role of healthcare professionals and essential medicines, we also emphasise the need for increased public financing for health, particularly in low and middle-income countries, with the overarching goal of diminishing reliance on out-of-pocket spending. This involves embedding primary health care policies into national health planning that safeguards the resourcing and effectiveness of a resilient health workforce.

The constituency further urges Member States and the WHO to invest in and strengthen capacity-building initiatives, recognising them as crucial components in advancing the collective journey towards achieving a comprehensive and equitable UHC. Moreover, we recognise the role of youth and communities through active engagement in decision-making processes, contributing to a more participatory and responsive healthcare system.

Lastly, we highlight the significance of equity and inclusivity in health policies and governance and continuously advocate for social participation, ensuring active engagement of communities and civil society to leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first.

Agenda Item 14. WHO’s work in health emergencies

Statement convenor International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care Inc.

We welcome the Progress Report and are inspired by WHO’s work to respond effectively to health emergencies in fragile, conflict-affected and vulnerable settings. We mourn the deaths of medical colleagues killed in action. This joint statement responds to the preventable suffering of persons of all ages who are wounded, traumatised, killed or are living with serious health related suffering in wars and humanitarian emergencies.

We respectfully request that member states attend to ensuring that adequate supplies of internationally controlled essential medicines used for anaesthesia, emergency surgery, trauma care, pain control, and end of life care are on hand and that first responders are appropriately trained to use them.

Internationally controlled essential medicines are those on the WHO Model List that are ALSO listed in the schedules of the three international drug control conventions. Tragically, these medicines are often routinely unavailable in health systems of countries experiencing disasters. Customs and border control authorities often remove them from incoming emergency kits and WHO’s NCD emergency packs still do not contain them.

As a result, effective anaesthesia for surgical procedures, and opioids to relieve severe pain and symptoms caused by fractures, wounds, burns, NCDs, and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders are lacking when people need them the most.

At the height of the pandemic, even well-resourced health systems ran out of two generic essential medicines: morphine for pain control and midazolam for sedation, both of which are unavailable and inaccessible in more than 85% of the world’s health systems for routine use even in ordinary times.

We urge national competent authorities and policymakers to collaborate with prescribers from all the relevant medical disciplines to provide adequate supplies for routine care and emergency stockpiles. Rational planning can mitigate diversion and harmful non-medical use while ensuring availability for medical use, including in times of epidemic and war.

We respectfully remind EB member states to review

  • the two Joint Statements on availability of controlled medicines in emergencies issued by the WHO, UNODC, and INCB,
  • “Lessons from Countries and Humanitarian Aid Organizations in Facilitating the Timely Supply of Controlled Substances during Emergency Situations Model Guide on Access”
  • 2023 WHO Report Left Behind in Pain.

Agenda Item:24.2 Draft fourteenth general programme of work

Statement convenor Global Health Council, Inc.

The Global Health Council and partners welcome WHO’s GPW14, particularly its historic efforts to consult with civil society and youth, outside of just NSAs in Official Relations with WHO, in the drafting process. These consultations ensure that the GPW14 is addressing the health needs and challenges particularly of those most vulnerable and left behind. We ask that WHO and Member States continue to support and strengthen engagement with civil society, young people and other key actors at the country, regional, and global levels through these types of consultations, as well as the inaugural WHO Civil Society Commission.

We also fully support Slovenia and Thailand’s Social Participation resolution, and ask that Member States ensure the GPW14 provides more emphasis on the need to create and financially support social participation platforms to reach each of the GPW14 strategic objectives.

As we approach the WHO Investment Round, we ask that Member States provide WHO with adequate and flexible financing for the implementation of the GPW14. Without financial backing, the GPW14 will not be operational and the international community will continue to face significant delays in reaching its SDG3.

We also ask Member States to ensure the GPW14 addresses the structural and systematic barriers that continue to cause health inequalities around the world. To do this, governments and multilateral agencies must routinely collect and analyze disaggregated data to inform health programs and policies, and monitor equity-based approaches. Without quality disaggregated data (such as age, gender, sexual orientation etc), vulnerable populations will remain invisible.

Lastly, the GPW14 should also emphasize the need to monitor not just service coverage and financial protection, but also quality of health services and alignment with disease burden when measuring UHC. Monitoring service quality indicators will allow governments to track health and care worker and infrastructure capacity (which we have learned from the pandemic are woefully under-resourced) and ensure all people, no matter their age, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, etc. are receiving respectful, humane, and quality essential health services.