April 21, 2020
Today, in our continuing monthly celebration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, we would like to focus our attention on the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Health Organization is the pre-eminent global institution fighting global epidemics. This organization has recently received a lot of attention in relation to the outbreak of Covid-19 we are undergoing. I wanted to take a look at the scope of the World Health Organization’s work, so I went to its website, WHO.int. I have included a summary of the information I found there. Our country’s recent attention on the WHO focuses on only a small part of the goals of this organization. As you will see below, WHO has other vital programs that need our continued support.
Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, on the Chris Hayes show, April 20, 2020, in response to the WHO error in reporting there was no human transmission of covid-19 in early January, reminded us that the WHO depends upon other countries for information as it has no intelligence gathering service. She also stated that it would be counter productive to our interests to not be a part of WHO because we would then have no leverage in this organization and we would know less about what is going on in the world. (The United States seat on the WHO has been vacant since 2018)
The United States defunding of the organization would make it harder for developing countries to not only fight this pandemic but other crises as well. As you can see below, WHO works in many other areas besides pandemics.
The Interfaith Peace Project
World Health Organization (WHO)
The World Health Organization was set up by the United Nations on April 7, 1948. There are more than 7000 people from more than 150 countries involved in the work. There are 150 country offices, 6 regional offices and a headquarters in Geneva. The World Health Organization works worldwide to promote health and to serve the vulnerable and, in so doing, keeps the world safer.
Any country that is a member of the United Nations may become a member of the World Health Organization by accepting its Constitution. (See below.) Other countries and territories may be admitted when their application is approved by a simple majority vote of the World Health Assembly.
The goals of The World Health Organization are to ensure people have universal health coverage, to protect people from health emergencies and to provide better health and well-being.
The goal of Universal Health Coverage involves focusing on primary health care to improve access to quality essential services by working towards sustainable financing and financial protection. WHO works to improve access to essential medicines, trains the health workforce, supports people’s participation in national health policies and improves monitoring, data and information.
To address the goal of providing better health and well-being, the WHO addresses social determinants, promotes intersectoral approaches for health, and prioritizes health in all policies and health settings. WHO focuses on disease prevention, mental health, antimicrobial resistance and the elimination and eradication of communicable diseases (like influenza and HIV) and noncommunicable diseases (like cancer and heart disease). WHO ensures the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink and the medicines and vaccines they need.
The spotlight on WHO in these days of Covid-19, is on WHO’s role in health emergencies. WHO prepares for emergencies by identifying, mitigating and managing any health risks. It works to prevent emergencies and supports development of tools necessary during outbreaks. WHO detects and responds to acute health emergencies and supports delivery of essential health services in fragile settings throughout the world.
World Health Organization Constitution
The Constitution of the World Health organization was adopted by the International Health Conference held in New York from June 19 to July 22, 1946. It was signed by the representatives of 61 Countries.
- Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
- The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.
- The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.
- The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.
- Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of diseases, especially communicable disease, is a common danger.
- Healthy development of the child is of basic importance; the ability to live harmoniously in a changing total environment is essential to such development.
- The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.
- Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people.
- Governments have a responsibility for the health of their peoples which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures.
Over time the WHO has fought hard in the battle against human disease. WHO was essential to the eradication of small pox, the nearly eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine.
In 2009, the Swine Flu Pandemic swept the world. The WHO, in 2007 organized work on influenza vaccine clinical trials in collaboration with many health experts. There was unprecedented collaboration between health experts, scientists, and manufacturers in developing vaccines that were approved for use only 3 months after the declaration of the pandemic.
The WHO is continuing its work fighting against HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis.
The WHO also works throughout the world combating heart disease and cancer while promoting healthy diets, nutrition and food security. It also works to combat substance abuse.