The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to open the 75th edition of the World Health Assembly in Geneva on Sunday as the war in Ukraine threatens to overshadow a reform push aimed at preventing future pandemics.
The UN health agency will see its 194 member states convene for the first in-person assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019.
The theme for this year's annual meet— which ends on May 28th — is "Health for peace, peace for health."
Ukraine, allies expected to denounce Russia's attacks on hospitals
While the agenda will focus on the continuing COVID-19 crisis and measures to avert future pandemics, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is expected to take center stage.
Kyiv and its allies are slated to put forth a resolution denouncing the invasion and Russia's attacks on healthcare — including hospitals and ambulances — in Ukraine.
The assembly will kick off with speeches from the elected World Health Assembly president, heads of state, special guests and an address by the WHO Director-General.
"The pandemic has undermined progress towards the health-related targets in Sustainable Development Goals and laid bare inequities within and between countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said earlier in a statement.
"Sustained recovery will require more than ‘getting back on track' and reinvesting in existing services and systems," he added. "We need a new approach, which means shifting priorities and focusing on the highest-impact interventions.”
WHO budget also to be discussed
A series of strategic round tables will also take place during the assembly — the WHO's highest decision-making body.
A key reform in the forefront of discussions involves the WHO budget.
Last month, donors had agreed a crucial deal to gradually raise their mandatory contributions to the health agency's budget to reach 50% of the budget by 2028-2029 or 2030-31.
The WHO, in turn, agreed to study the proposal.
The countries are expected to approve a plan to provide secure and flexible funding to ensure the organization's swift response to global health threats.
The assembly also comes as new health concerns loom, including hepatitis of mysterious origin that has been affecting children in many countries, and the rising numbers of monkeypox cases.
dvv/wd (AFP, Reuters)