The annual conference of the World Health Assembly is held in Geneva under the theme: “Saving lives – promoting health for all”. But the organization is still far from its supposed goal.
The opening song for the World Health Assembly came from hundreds of nurses from around the world. A song of encouragement, because the challenges are enormous – the world is still far from WHO’s main goal of “Health for All”.
“There are still huge disparities in health care between and within countries,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a video message: “Progress is at risk.” According to Guterres, millions are threatened by wars and conflicts. The climate crisis threatens the health of billions of people.
WHO chief Tedros delivers a keynote address to the World Health Assembly today.
The Covid19 pandemic has set back the healthcare system. In addition, according to WHO Director-General Tedros, there are WHO’s institutional challenges: WHO’s expectations have grown exponentially over the past 20 years, but not funds.
The annual budget of the World Health Organization is about three billion dollars, which is equivalent to that of a large city hospital such as the Charité in Berlin. Just under 15 percent of the funds are mandatory contributions from Member States – the large remainder are voluntary and often ad hoc donations from countries and private foundations.
That must change, Julia Stöfner of the aid organization “Brot für die Welt” in Geneva demands from the federal government’s letter: “This means that Germany must work towards an increase in mandatory contributions and that the voluntary contributions that Germany pays to the World Health Organization do, and remain on high level.”
Non-governmental organizations are calling for a greater role
The World Health Assembly is the highest body of the World Health Organization. Here, the 194 member states unanimously decide what needs to be done to promote global health. But not only governments, but also civil society voices need to be heard more in Geneva, says Andreas Wolff of Medical Aid International: “Internationally, we’ve seen for years that the space we have in discussions with our data is increasing backwards: it was It’s three minutes per statement, then two minutes, and now it’s just one minute.”
The top floor of the World Health Organization indicates understanding — after all, health is about people, not countries. “Not only can we talk to governments, we have to make speeches for which these things are being made,” says Rudiger Kretsch, director of health promotion at the World Health Organization. You don’t have to talk about people, but with people. “We have to do it better at the WHO.” But this too can ultimately be decided by member states alone, according to Creech: “It’s a political decision: ‘How do we want to do global health work in the future?'” “
Health is also a matter of strength
The political explosion of the WHO’s sweet promise of “health for all” can be seen in who is allowed to have a say and who isn’t: it is a matter of power. “Taiwan should be in the WHO,” protesters who marched in the UN district of Geneva over the weekend demanded. China has so far succeeded in preventing this.