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ESMO Calls for Increased Actions for the Provision of Health Services during Health Emergencies

ESMO Statement at the 152nd WHO Executive Board Meeting
31 Jan 2023

For the 152nd Session of the WHO Executive Board meeting, ESMO submitted an official statement on the agenda item “Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies - Strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience”. 

ESMO welcomes the WHO’s work coordinating a global process to “draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument (generally referred to as the ‘pandemic accord’) to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response” as outlined in the WHO Director-General’s Report. Such process will be led by Member States through the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB).

The content of the pandemic accord is crucial as it will regulate health globally and Member States will decide its terms, including whether any of its provisions will be legally binding as a matter of international law.  

ESMO has provided input to the discussions on health emergencies on an ongoing basis at previous WHO meetings, and to the consultation of the third meeting of the INB3 on the pandemic accord, to ensure that the needs of the cancer workforce and cancer patients are addressed in the final documents. 

ESMO’s statement asked WHO Member States to give further consideration to expanding upon actions to address the following issues within the pandemic accord: 

  1. Providing healthcare professionals with ethical and methodological guidelines on decision-making to help them deliver the best possible outcomes in situations where resources are scarce or require reallocation.
  2. Developing an action plan to address the needs of vulnerable patients who are unable to access health services, due to travel restrictions or the fear of leaving their homes, on a timely basis during a global health emergency.
  3. Leveraging civil society’s resources, like our own ‘COVID-19 and Cancer’ web portal, to inform efforts to minimize the risk to cancer patients during health emergencies. 

ESMO has also reaffirmed the commitment to assist WHO and its Member States  in their  invaluable efforts to prepare for, and respond to, health emergencies. 

The WHO is also coordinating the update of the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR). Both documents are intended to regulate a coordinated global effort for national and international responses to health emergencies. Key components are strengthening the role of WHO, increasing the resilience of health systems, uniting collective action around the principles of equity, inclusivity,  and coherence for worldwide assistance and distribution of essential medical goods, including vaccines.  

“zero draft” of the pandemic accord will be discussed by Member States in February 2023.  After that, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body will deliver a progress report to the 76th World Health Assembly in 2023 and submit its outcome for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024. 

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