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Health Emergencies

Ensuring access to, and continuity of cancer care, for patients during health emergencies

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 194 Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) are negotiating an international instrument - generally referred to as the ‘pandemic accord’ - to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Key components of the instrument aim to strengthen the role of the WHO, increase the resilience of health systems, and unite collective action around the principles of equity, inclusivity, and coherence for worldwide assistance and distribution of essential medical goods, including vaccines. Simultaneously, the WHO is coordinating amendments to the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR). Both instruments are intended to regulate a coordinated global effort for national and international responses to health emergencies, and to increase health security, with both planned for consideration at the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024.

ESMO has been contributing  to consultations on both the pandemic accord and IHR, the latter being legally binding under international law as of 2025, unless a state proactively files rejections or reservations within a 10-month period after their adoption in 2024.

ESMO’s key asks include: 

  • Strengthening health systems preparedness at secondary and tertiary care levels;
  • Ensuring robust referrals across the continuum of care during and beyond health emergencies;
  • Ensuring timely and affordable access to care from primary, secondary and tertiary levels - (including research), where cancer patients are mostly treated and without which they will be left behind;
  • An adequate build-up, protection, and resourcing of the healthcare workforce.

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