The World Health Assembly (WHA) held a two-day virtual 73rd session in Geneva, Switzerland, last May 18-19, with the 109 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) participating in the sessions dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The assembly was held at a time when the WHO is in the limelight of world attention because of the pandemic and the criticism by United States President Donald Trump of both the WHO and China where the COVID-19 virus was first reported in December, 2019.
A draft resolution was taken up at the assembly calling for an “impartial, independent, and comprehensive valuation” of the WHO’s response to the pandemic and identification of the “zoonotic source” of the virus. It called for the “universal, timely, and equitable access to and fair distribution of all quality, safe, efficacious, and affordable essential health technologies and products, including the components and precursors required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a global priority.”
China President Xi Jinping addressed the conference via video conferencing with a speech that made several commitments to the world, WHO, and the common fight against the pandemic.
He announced that China is developing a vaccine which, when it is ready, will be supplied without profit “for the global public good.” This would be a boon to the many poor nations that are suffering from the pandemic.
He announced that China would donate $2 billion to the WHO over the next two years not only for its current efforts against the pandemic but also for the world organization’s health, economic, and social programs in developing countries around the world.
President Xi finally announced that China will work with other members of G20, the world’s most highly developed nations, on a Debt Service Suspension Initiative to help the hardest-hit countries in the ongoing pandemic.
In recent weeks, the WHO has been the object of criticism by US President Trump who threatened to withdraw US financial support from the organization. All other WHO members, notably Russia, China, and the European Union, have rallied around the WHO.
With support such as that announced by President Xi at the recent World Health Assembly, the WHO should be able to do well as it carries out its critical role in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.