WHO's governing body reviews IHR implementation in the Western Pacific Region

News release

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it remains essential for countries to meet their commitments under the International Health Regulations – or IHRs – to ensure preparedness in effectively responding to emerging disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.

Countries that were unable to make the 15 June 2012 deadline for meeting the core capacity requirements set by the IHRs can have an additional two years—based on a justified need and an implementation plan. Many countries, including 14 of the Western Pacific Region's 27 Member States, who are state parties to the IHRs, have requested such an extension. WHO says further extensions beyond 15 June 2014 can be granted in exceptional situations, taking into account the advice of the IHR Review Committee.

"This is a critical year for all of us," WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo told the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's governing body. "The revised International Health Regulations entered into force in 2007 and have been in force for five years. It is vital to review achievements, look at where we stand now, and decide how we move forward."

The Regional Committee is meeting in Hanoi to review WHO's work in the Region, including the status of IHR implementation of countries and areas.

The IHRs aim to ensure that national core capacity requirements are developed, strengthened and maintained.

"Effective implementation of the national plans is vital to success," said Dr Shin. "These plans require sustainable national investment and external support, both technically and financially. We need more predictable financial resources not only during emergencies, but also between emergencies to improve preparedness and to also prevent public health emergencies from occurring."

In the Western Pacific Region, the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases or APSED (2010) serves as a regional tool to help build and maintain capacities required by the IHR. Also contributing to IHR core capacity development, efforts are made in related technical areas including food safety and environmental health. Together these programmes provide support to Member States to help ensure that the Region is better prepared to respond to emerging diseases and other public health emergencies.

Despite the overall progress, WHO says urgent actions are needed to fully comply with the IHRs given the main public health risks and vulnerabilities in the Western Pacific Region. At the same time, Pacific island countries and areas face unique challenges, which will need a tailored, flexible approach in implementing the IHRs.

Countries that need an additional two years to meet the IHR core capacity requirements should allocate resources and maximize efforts to achieve the core capacities. At the same time, continuing long-term efforts are vital to enhance and sustain the IHR core capacities in all Member States. In coordination and collaboration with partners, WHO continues to support countries in meeting their IHR core capacity requirements.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Ms Marilu Lingad
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1272643638
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 891 4532;
E-mail: lingadm@wpro.who.int

Mr Timothy O'Leary
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1252093845
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 886 8738
E-mail: olearyt@wpro.who.int

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