Statement by U.S. Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker
at the 76th World Health Assembly
Pillar 2 Statement— Public Health Emergencies: Preparedness and Response
Wednesday, May 23, 2023
Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, with far-reaching health, social, economic, and other impacts in the region and globally.
The brutal attacks by Russia’s forces have displaced millions, destroyed critical health facilities, deprived millions of safe and reliable access to essential health services, and disrupted essential medical supply chains. The WHO last reported on May 4, 2023 that Russia has attacked health care facilities 959 times and caused the death of 8,709 civilians. This is unacceptable and must stop.
The displacement of millions of Ukrainians across international borders is also straining health systems in neighboring countries and across the region. The figures are staggering: over 8.2 million, with over 12.5 million return-border crossings, and more than 5.4 million people internally displaced.
We thank WHO and the other UN humanitarian agencies and partners that are working tirelessly to provide millions of Ukrainians, including those forcibly displaced, with lifesaving health services and related products, and we continue to encourage WHO’s support of the Health Cluster to coordinate and prioritize humanitarian health action.
As Russia’s brutality continues, the impact on global health deserves the highest level of attention. We welcome and note WHO’s updated report on the implementation of last year’s resolution on the health emergency in Ukraine due to Russia’s aggression. We express our support for the Ukraine decision associated with this report and urge WHO Member States to keep the focus on the dire global impact of the health and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine by also expressing your support.
We thank WHO and the other UN humanitarian agencies and partners.
The United States thanks the Director General for the report on WHO’s response to health emergencies in 2022, and we welcome the update on the Universal Health and Preparedness Review (UHPR) pilots.
The United States continues to be fully committed to the negotiation of a new Pandemic Accord and amendments to International Health Regulations to build our collective capacities to prevent and respond to future pandemics and to do so in a way that expands equity for all.
This year’s sobering report of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Program (WHE IOAC) should serve as an urgent call to both the Secretariat and Member States to renew our focus on the fundamentals of the WHE.
We call on the Secretariat to take steps to implement the recommendations of the IOAC. In particular, to:
- Clarify roles and responsibilities across the three levels, in line with WHA decision 69(9);
- Develop and resource a staffing strategy for the WHE workforce;
- Ensure efforts to improve the resource base for WHO extend to WHE; and
- Address organization-wide issues such as gender , sexual misconduct , and institutional culture that are particularly important to WHO’s emergency work.
The United States is committed to the IHR amendment process through the Working Group on amendments to the IHR 2005 and will continue to work with Member States to update the IHR to make it fit-for-purpose and able to address health emergencies at the earliest possible instance.
Member States must continue to improve IHR implementation and compliance by implementing core capacities and striving to improve communications, connectivity, and transparency.
The United States is committed to moving forward with a package of targeted amendments to the IHR at WHA77 and ask that all Member States dedicate time and effort to that important agreed outcome.
Regarding the HEPR proposal, much has already been done to create and evaluate the current global health architecture, such as the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) and its accompanying Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (MEF) that focuses on core capacities to prevent the spread of disease, and we must deconflict any potential issues that may interfere with current monitoring and evaluation.
At the 153rd session of the Executive Board, the United States will propose that the EB task the Sub-Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (SCHEPPR) to carefully consider the HEPR proposals, report to the 154th Executive Board on any area of potential confusion or overlap, and provide a recommendation to the EB on how to address the identified challenges.
On the Clinical Trials item, once the Secretariat releases the initial draft of the guidelines landscape of best practices for clinical trials, we request that an initial consultation be convened soon thereafter for Member States to provide feedback before the guidance is finalized.
For clinical research in outbreak response settings, we encourage the WHO to consult early and to coordinate with host countries, global experts and vaccine and therapeutic developers and providers on the development and execution of well-designed clinical trials, that respond to the needs of the country experiencing the outbreak.
In closing, the United States wishes to extend our sincere gratitude for the work and, in particular, to the staff of the WHO for their tireless dedication and service in responding to an ever growing number of health emergencies.
Thank you chair.