The Minister for Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has led a delegation of selected Parliamentarians, doctors, CEOs and officials from the Health Ministry to participate in the 71 World Health Assembly meetings in Geneva, Switzerland. The Minister gave a statement on behalf of the Government and People of Ghana on Tuesday’s during the main Plenary meeting and also presented a report.

“The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It generally meets in Geneva in May each year and is attended by delegations from all 194 WHO Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. The Health Assembly appoints the Director-General, supervises the financial policies of the Organization, and reviews and approves the Proposed programme budget. It similarly considers reports of the Executive Board, which it instructs in regard to matters upon which further action, study, investigation or report may be required.”

The stakeholders within the health sector look at issues such as trends, new cases of diseases, policy guidelines, challenges and the way forward in improving health outcomes of people across the nations. The theme for the general debate for 2018 71 WHA was “Health for All: Commit to Universal Health Coverage”.

Aside the main Assembly meetings, were as part of the WHA71, other side events. These included Technical briefings, official side events and other meetings at the “Palais des Nations” and in town. There were also meetings of the delegations of Member States of the WHO African Region.

Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu participated in several of these events and made statements. During one of such events at Campus Biotech in Geneva, as part of the WHA programme, Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu was awarded for his role in helping to address antimicrobial resistance: a threat to global health and the achievement of universal health coverage as well as his lead role in looking at the general issues of AMR. It is recollected, that, recently, the Ministry developed the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) document and National Policy on Antimicrobial use and Resistance in collaboration with and support from other institutions and was launched by H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo in Accra.

Hon. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu together with some heads of delegations of member countries signed the UHC Global Compact to commit to the UHC policy.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, gave an Address at the opening of the meeting in the main Assembly of the United Nations building. He then supervised admission of New members and Associate members during the opening day. Executive Board elections were done including awards given to some individuals for their contributions and selfless duty to the World Health body. There was a report of the Executive Board on its 141st and 142ND sessions, and on its special session on the draft thirteenth general Programme of Work (POW), 2019-2023.

Reports of the main committees (A & B) were finally read by their presidents, summarizing the entire events. Some general as well as technical health issues were discussed with countries presenting papers on such topics. Some of the general Strategic Priority Matters looked at by Committee A include; Public Health preparedness, and response, Report of the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Program (WHO’s work in Health Emergencies), Implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005), Polio transition and post certification as well as Addressing the global shortage of and access to medicines and vaccines. Other topics were Preparation for the third High level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of NCD to be held in 2018, Preparation for a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on ending tuberculosis.

Committee B also discussed Other Technical Matters such as Global Snakebite burden, Physical Activity for Health, Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents Health (2016-2030); sexual and reproductive health, interpersonal violence and early childhood development, M Health, Improving access to assistive technology and Maternal, infant and young children nutrition. There were also discussions about Comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young children nutrition: biennial report, Safe guarding against possible conflicts of interest in nutrition programs, Pandemic Influenza preparedness framework for the sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits, and Eradication of poliomyelitis.

Committee B, one of the main committees handled such matters as; Health Conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The committee looked in more details Program Budget and Financial Matters. These included; WHO programmatic and financial reports for 2016-2017, including audited financial statements for 2017, Financing of the Program Budget 2018-2019 and Status of the collection of assessed contributions, including Member states in arrears in the payment of their assessed contributions to an extent that would justify invoking Article 7 of the constitution as well as Special Arrangements for settlement of arrears.

There was also an Assessment of new members and Associate members and a look at the Amendments to the Financial Regulations and Financial Rules.

Audit and Oversight Matters including Report of the External and Internal Auditors as well as Annual Report and External and Internal audit recommendations covering progress on the implementation were also discussed.

There were also matters board on Staffing that were considered for discussion, including Human Resources Annual Report, Report of the International Civil Service Commission, Amendments to the staff Regulation and Staff Rules, Appointment of representatives to the WHO staff Pension Committee, Management and Legal Matters, Agreements with Inter-governmental organizations and Collaboration within the United Nations System and with other intergovernmental organizations

Matters for Information including Global Vaccine Action Plan, Real Estate Update on the Geneva Buildings renovation strategy Progress Reports were also covered.

Committee B also took into account by looking at Communicable Diseases like Global Health Sector Strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections for the period 2016-2021, Eradication of dranculiasis and Elimination of schistosomiasis. Some Non-Communicable Disease areas like Public Health dimension of the world drug problem, Global burden of epilepsy and the need for coordinated action at the country level to address its health, social and public knowledge implication, Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013 2020.

There were also issues of Promoting health through the life course as Global strategy and action plan on ageing and Health 2016-2020: towards a world in which everyone can live a long healthy life.

Health Systems Strengthening integrated, people centred and health services including Promoting innovation and access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable medicines for children, Sustainable Health financing structures and Universal Coverage, Availability, safety and quality of blood products, Human Organ and tissue transplantation, WHO strategy on research for health and Workers Health: Global plan of action

Health Emergencies Programmes in areas of Small pox eradication: destruction of variola virus stocks were also touched.

The Ghanaian team with massive support from the Ghana’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Mr. Ramses Joseph Cleland and his able officers have since returned home.

By Robert Cudjoe

(Head, Public Relations Unit)