WHO concerned over potential missed deadline for pandemic treaty

Countries risk missing a May deadline for agreeing a legally binding treaty on fighting pandemics and this would be a big blow for future generations, the head of the WHO said on Monday.
FILE PHOTO: Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends an ACANU briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, December 15, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends an ACANU briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, December 15, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) -Countries risk missing a May deadline for agreeing a legally binding treaty on fighting pandemics and this would be a big blow for future generations, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The new pact and a series of updates to existing rules on dealing with pandemics are intended to shore up the world's defences against new pathogens after the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than 7 million people, according to WHO data.

"I must say I'm concerned that member states may not meet that commitment and there are several outstanding issues that remain to be resolved," said Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in an address to the global health agency's Executive Board meeting in Geneva this week.

"In my view, a failure to deliver the pandemic agreement and the IHR (International Health Regulations) amendments will be a missed opportunity for which future generations may not forgive us," he said, urging countries to seize the opportunity to shape the future of the WHO and global health.

Only once before in the organisation's 75-year history has the WHO managed to agree such an accord, and that was a Tobacco Control treaty in 2003.

In the same address, Tedros was upbeat about prospects for battling AIDS, which is one in a series of so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) fixed by the global body to fight some of the world's most pressing problems by 2030.

"We are now beginning to see a pathway for the SDG target of ending the HIV pandemic," Tedros said.

(Reporting by Emma FargeAdditional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-FarberEditing by Miranda Murray and Gareth Jones)

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