UN: Ebola response panel to ensure compliance with key UN legal health instrument

New York, US (PANA) - A Special UN panel reviewing the role of existing international health regulations in the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is studying the use of possible sanctions and other mechanisms to ensure better compliance with what it described as "a very important legal instrument in order to improve the global health security."

Mr. Didier Houssin, newly-elected Chair of the UN Review Committee on the Role of International Health Regulations in the Ebola Outbreak and Response, in a statement on Thursday, stated: "In many countries, even in the Ministry of Health, sometimes the regulations about the International Health Regulations are not well known, so I think that there is a question of information communication, there is a question of capacities, there is a question of compliance to the rules, that’s very important."

He noted that the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015 set a mandate for a Review Committee on response to the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 11,300 lives to date mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

He also said that the Assembly recommended steps to improve the functioning, transparency,
effectiveness and efficiency of the regulations, and to strengthen preparedness and response
for future emergencies with health consequences.

Mr. Houssin said the on-going review will be divided into three working groups – one on
communications to define the flow of information from the World Health Organization (WHO) to member states, a second to address capacities, epidemiology, points of entry, surveillance and a third to evaluate member states’ compliance to rules and governance of international
health regulations.

He said: "The International Health Regulations are a very important legal instrument in order to improve the global health security, that is an instrument for public health to protect the health of the population in the world and it’s existing since several decades and it has been modified in 2005."

"And, of course, it has strengths and weaknesses and, recently, the Ebola outbreak suggested
that probably there were things to improve in these Regulations," he stressed.

Mr. Houssin also said the committee requested from the WHO to inform it about the various
methods of compliance which can be used in international laws.

"In some sectors, for example, there is almost no imposition, nothing imperative; for example,
human rights, and on the other hand, you have, at the other extreme, weapons and nuclear
activities where there are sanctions, controls [and] inspections. Well, with the International
Health Regulations there is no sanction but we observe that there is not a good compliance.

"So, we have to find the right balance and probably encouraging mechanisms, incentives,
publicity, transparency, benchmarking are the ways that we will explore but at this stage it’s
too early to say what will be our recommendation," he stated.

He also added: "We are going to explore all the possibilities, and the recommendations are
expected to be presented to the next World Health Assembly that is in May 2016."
-0- PANA AA/VAO 27Aug2015

27 august 2015 14:30:44

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