•Other areas to be covered are establishing mechanisms for timely sharing of information and technologies.
•Countries agreed to keep a window open for additional written proposals until Saturday this week and that those proposals will be compiled with all others made over recent weeks into a package that will be made available to all drafting group participants.
Kenya is among the countries that are helping craft a new health treaty to prevent future pandemics.
A draft treaty is expected to be approved by all countries during the World Health Assembly in May 2024.
This would be the world’s second treaty focused on health, after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, enacted in 2005.
The new accord also aims to ensure equitable distribution of lifesaving medical supplies to prevent the situation where rich countries hoarded nearly all Covid-19 vaccines and only began to release them when they were about to expire.
Preliminary discussions for the new treaty ended last week during the fifth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which includes WHO’s 194 countries.
Precious Matsoso, a South African who co-chairs the INB Bureau, said, “Countries from all parts of the world were able to discuss their ideas, concerns and suggestions in a forum for all countries to hear and consider.”
Countries agreed to keep the window open for additional written proposals until Saturday this week, and that those proposals will be compiled with all others made over recent weeks into a package that will be made available to all drafting group participants.
The drafting group of the INB will then meet in June to continue negotiations.
INB bureau co-chair, Roland Driece of the Netherlands, said in a statement, “The world realises that what we want and need to achieve is an accord that will help us not to repeat the mistakes of the Covid-19 pandemic response. There are many proposals and constructive suggestions on the table for how to do this.”
According to the process agreed by governments at a special session of the World Health Assembly in late 2021, negotiations on the draft pandemic accord will aim to produce a final draft for consideration by the 77th World Health Assembly in May 2024.
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta first mooted the treaty alongside 24 other world leaders in March 2021, following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Last year, then Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said Kenya supports the new treaty.
He said strengthening the WHO to better deal with Covid-19 and other global pandemics should be at the heart of the response.
“The world must work like a single army defending ourselves against a common enemy with each member state being the other’s keeper. A silo mentality and kneejerk reactions will neither be sustainable nor effective,” he told delegates at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly last year.
He said the treaty should ensure equitable access and distribution of medical and other countermeasures, global coordination and funding for research and development.
Other areas to be covered are establishing mechanisms for timely sharing of information and technologies.
In parallel with the pandemic accord negotiations, governments are also discussing more than 300 amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) in an effort to ensure greater equity in the global response to public health emergencies.
Part of the goal is to stop unnecessary trade, travel, and other barriers hampering the ability of member states to mount effective preventive and responsive measures. Governments have been working to ensure consistency and alignment across the INB and IHR processes.
The proposed IHR amendments will also be presented to the World Health Assembly in 2024, and will together, with a future pandemic accord, provide a comprehensive, complementary, and synergistic set of global health agreements.