WHO at 75: 'Increased co-operation needed in face of 'unprecedented health threats'

Dr Tedros highlights gaps in defences against health emergencies, as well as dangers from the climate crisis

The WHO headquarters in Geneva. It was established on April 7, 1948. Getty
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for increased co-operation to help deal with unprecedented threats to health as it prepares to mark its 75th anniversary.

The WHO said “extraordinary progress” had been made since its founding on April 7, 1948, including the eradication of smallpox and a successful campaign against polio, which has led to a 99 per cent reduction in cases.

But major gaps still exist in the world’s defences against health emergencies, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general.

“The history of WHO demonstrates what is possible when nations come together for a common purpose,” he said.

“We have much to be proud of but much work to do to realise our founding vision of the highest attainable standard of health for all people.

“We continue to face vast inequities in access to health services, major gaps in the world’s defences against health emergencies and threats from health-harming products and the climate crisis. We can only meet these global challenges with global co-operation.”

In response, the WHO is urging countries to take urgent action to protect, support and expand the health workforce.

It says investment in education, skills and decent jobs for health must be prioritised to meet the rapidly growing demand for health and avert a projected shortage of 10 million health workers by 2030. The problem is particularly acute in low and middle-income countries.

The WHO’s road map to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic includes an “urgent paradigm shift” towards promoting health and well-being and preventing disease by addressing its root causes.

The organisation is urging countries to prioritise primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

It also recently founded a global education programme on basic emergency care targeting 25 per cent of nurses and midwives from 25 low and middle-income countries by the end of 2025. The programme will provide nurses and midwives with the skills and competency to make a difference in saving lives and reducing disabilities.

The WHO was set up in the aftermath of the Second World War by a treaty that recognised that health was not only a basic human right, but also fundamental to peace and security. It now has 194 member states and other partners.

Updated: April 05, 2023, 1:32 PM