June 13, 2024

Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly – Daily update: 30 May 2024

Delegates approve groundbreaking new agreement on transplantation

On 29 May 2024, Member States (with the initiation of Spain) approved a new resolution on increasing availability, ethical access and oversight of transplantation of human cells, tissues and organs.

Transplantation is a life-saving treatment. The latest data of 2022 from the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation indicate that more than 150 000 solid organ transplants (≤ 10% of global needs) are performed worldwide annually, which is an increase of 52% compared with 2010.

However, there is still an apparent insufficient growth in and asymmetrical development of transplantation worldwide with many countries not having established the appropriate systems, including legislation, governance, specialized workforce, infrastructure and financing.

Lack of availability and equitable access to transplantation may lead to death or unethical or illegal practices such as transplant tourism and organ trafficking. The resolution aims to improve the availability of transplantation, especially in countries with limited resources.

The resolution aims to introduce measures to prevent and combat trafficking in people for the purpose of organ removal and trafficking in human organs, and to protect victims and survivors of these crimes by strengthening legislative frameworks.

Member States committed to take a set of actions including integrating donation and transplantation activities into health-care systems, so that deceased donation is routinely considered as an option at the end of life, and living donors are protected from exploitation and provided with proper follow-up care.

WHO is tasked to develop a global strategy on donation and transplantation, to be presented to the Assembly for adoption in 2026. WHO should also examine establishing a World Donor Day to raise public awareness and enhance understanding on the need for altruistic donation of human cells, tissues and organs. 

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New global action plan for infection prevention and control agreed

On 29 May 2024, delegates at the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly endorsed a new Global action plan and monitoring framework for infection prevention and control (IPC) for 20242030. The plan provides clear actions, indicators, and targets to support Member States in improving national- and facility-level IPC actions.

Recent history has demonstrated how outbreaks such as Ebola and COVID-19 spreading in communities can be dramatically amplified in health-care settings when there are gaps in IPC measures. Infections acquired in health-care settings, including those that exhibit antimicrobial resistance (AMR), cause avoidable suffering to patients, and increase the burden on health systems.

IPC interventions such as hand hygiene, and ensuring access to high-quality water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services can reduce the risk of health care-associated infections (HAIs) by up to 70% and have a high economic return on investment. 

Delegates reiterated their commitment to strengthen IPC programmes, noting that the action plan will require firm political commitment, dedicated financing and sustained implementation.

The plan will be supported by a detailed implementation guide and other resources, including costing tools. Full implementation of the global action plan can enable the attainment of the goal that everyone has access to health care that is safe from HAIs by 2030.

The WHO Secretariat is requested to report to the Assembly on implementation progress biennially from 2025.

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Countries commit to recover lost progress in maternal, newborn and child survival

Alarmed by the stagnation of progress in reducing maternal and child mortality, countries today passed a critical Resolution committing to specific actions to prevent deaths of women, babies and children.

Annually, 287 000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, 4.9 million children die of largely preventable causes before their fifth birthday, and there are 1.9 million stillbirths. Progress in reducing maternal deaths has stalled since 2016, while survival gains for newborns and young children have lost pace.

This new resolution commits to tackling the leading causes of maternal and child deaths, especially in the worst affected countries, while improving access to maternal, sexual and reproductive and comprehensive child health services through stronger primary health care. It further highlights the need to expand access to emergency services including urgent obstetric care and small and sick newborn units, which are critical to manage complications associated with prematurity and other leading causes of newborn deaths.

The resolution emphasized that health systems must be enabled to deliver quality, safe and effective care, through well-stocked facilities, well-trained and motivated health workers, and safe water and sanitation. The resolution also stresses the need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, that underpin women’s health.

At current rates of progress, more than 4 out of 5 countries are likely to fall short on the Sustainable Development Goals’ maternal mortality targets; 64 countries for newborn mortality; and 59 countries for under-five child mortality. Current rates of decline in maternal mortality would need to be accelerated nine times, and newborn and under-five mortality four times to achieve these targets. Member States have committed to report back on this resolution every two years.  

Related links 

  • A77/A/CONF./5 Accelerate progress towards reducing maternal, newborn and child mortality in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal targets 3.1 and 3.2
  • A77/A/CONF./5 Add.1 Financial and administrative implications for the Secretariat of resolutions proposed for adoption by the Health Assembly

New resolution on antimicrobial resistance to mobilize action  

Today, delegates approved a resolution to accelerate national and global responses on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), ahead of the second UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting (HLM) on AMR to take place in September 2024.  

AMR is an urgent global health and socioeconomic challenge. An estimated 1.3 million global deaths per year are attributable to drug-resistant bacterial infections. AMR threatens people of all ages, in all regions, with low- and middle-income countries most affected.  

Under the broad concept of a people-centred approach, the resolution welcomes the WHO strategic and operational priorities to address drug-resistant bacterial infections in the human health sector (2025–2035), with the four strategic priorities of: prevention of infections; universal access to affordable, quality diagnosis and appropriate treatment of infections; strategic information, science and innovation; and effective governance and financing of the human health sector response to AMR.   

The resolution urges Member States to apply these priorities and implement the core package of country-level interventions through their AMR national action plans. Areas of focus include the governance, funding, implementation and monitoring of national action plans, and the development of a concise and action-oriented, consensus-based political declaration for adoption at the HLM. 

The resolution also requests the Director-General to provide a status update and guidance to countries in preparation for the HLM on AMR. WHO is committed to provide technical support to expedite national responses to AMR and to develop progress reports on the resolution’s implementation.   

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Leaders discuss how artificial intelligence is transforming health 

Today’s Strategic Roundtable considered opportunities, risks, and governance in harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the quality of health care, while upholding principles of justice, equity, inclusion, safety, privacy, transparency and accountability. 

“Some say that AI will unlock a 4th industrial revolution”, outlined WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, with AI set to “change the way we live and work, with major consequences for health”. 

Speakers drew from their experiences in health, academia, government, and the regulatory and private technology sectors to address issues, such as partnerships, to combine public health expertise with private innovation, and regulation, to boldly yet responsibly support the adoption and innovation of AI technologies. The role of WHO’s trusted leadership in shaping an equitable digital future and its guidance in informing the implementation of AI projects were also highlighted.

The discussion highlighted the importance of putting people and the public interest front and centre when using AI for health. Concerns about reinforcing existing inequities were raised but there was also hope that AI could help overcome current limitations, by helping to reach marginalized communities and people in remote areas and augment the capabilities of time-constrained health workers. 

Next steps will be taken in the areas of: a renewed Global Strategy on Digital Health and AI (2026-2030); operationalizing the Global Initiative on AI for Health (GI-AI4H); and the distribution of responsibilities across stakeholders, including: resource mobilization to support WHO and Member States in building consensus, developing guidance, and providing technical support on leveraging AI responsibly to strengthen health systems.

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Addressing sexual misconduct is a priority for WHO and its Member States

Member States today commended the Director-General and the WHO Secretariat for the progress made in addressing sexual misconduct and endorsed recommendations on the prevention and response to sexual misconduct in the Director-General’s Report A77/4 on two key issues to further improve this work.

They requested the Secretariat to submit proposals for mechanisms to ensure full and sustainable funding of activities to prevent sexual misconduct in emergencies, and for defining Member States’ accountability to ensure prevention of and response to sexual misconduct during joint operations between government entities and WHO.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, delivering a statement on behalf of 48 Member States, commended WHO’s work to strengthen systems, policies and culture to prevent sexual misconduct by the workforce, but cautioned that “whilst great progress has been made – we, the WHO community, cannot afford to take our foot off the gas now.” Member States added that “WHO has shown agility in its response, the ability to prioritize, the ability to self-reflect, and a commitment to Zero tolerance.”

Many Member States stressed the need to enact organization-wide culture change and undertake further strengthening victim- and survivor-centered approaches.

Dr Razia Pendse, WHO Chef de Cabinet, outlined the Organization’s plans for culture change. Dr Gaya Gamhewage, Director for the Prevention and Response to Sexual Misconduct, said more than 500 focal points and staff were now dedicated to this work across the Organization. She urged Member States to work with WHO and the rest of the UN system to improve services in countries for victims and survivors. 

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