Mongolia conducted self-assessment of IHR implementation, identified gaps and set up priority action areas

A self-assessment of Mongolia's implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) was conducted on1-2 February in Ulaanbaatar. Sixty professionals from human and animal health sectors, national disaster prevention and health emergency response organizations, professional inspection, border control and representatives from WHO and other international and development organizations were present during the review exercise.

The self-assessment was conducted with the aid of the WHO IHR implementation evaluation tool designed to test the functionality of the country’s health emergency response system. The IHR evaluation tool consisted of questions along 19 technical areas related to the country’s core capacities in handling public health emergencies, covering a range of areas as infectious diseases, food, environmental, chemical and radio-nuclear safety.

Nine technical multi-sectoral groups organized by the Health Minister’s order have worked together to review the progress in each sector, identify gaps and inform on priority actions to strengthen the national health security.

“The multi-sectoral groups have demonstrated a high level of commitment under an impressive leadership of the Ministry of Health,” said May Chiew, an epidemiologist with WHO Western Pacific Regional Office who came to record the exercise together with a WHO consultant epidemiologist, Michelle McPherson.

The self-evaluation exercise continued into the weekend and collection of documentation and relevant data as well as remedy actions for the identified gaps will be undertaken as much as possible till May when the first Joint External Evaluation of the IHR implementation in Mongolia will take place.

“Although self-assessments of the country’s core capacities to ensure the national health security have been conducted in Mongolia since 2010, the one that is taking place now is quite special as it presents a much more detailed questionnaire looking into the functionality of the country’s health security system and can now be seen as a pre-Joint External Evaluation exercise,” said A. Ambaselmaa, the Head of the Surveillance Department of the National Centre for Communicable Diseases which is the IHR focal point in Mongolia.

The Joint External Evaluation or JEE is a new monitoring and evaluation mechanism for assessing countries’ core capacities in preventing and responding to various public health emergencies. The JEE was introduced after the Ebola outbreak that demonstrated a need for a more precise evaluation of the countries’ capacities and identification of the areas that need improvement. In the Western Pacific the JEE was already conducted in Cambodia and Vietnam.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) are an international legal instrument that is binding on 196 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of WHO. Their aim is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.