WHA Participants Discuss Smallpox, Hear Draft Plan On Maternal And Child Health, Endorse Resolutions on AIDS, NCDs

Representatives of member nations at the World Health Assembly in Geneva “on Monday held a stormy discussion on the future of smallpox virus samples, which Russia and the United States are seeking to preserve while others want them destroyed,” Agence France-Presse reports. “In a draft resolution put forward Monday to the 193 WHO member states, Russia and the U.S. once again sought to conserve the samples, and wanted to begin discussing a possible date for their destruction only in five years,” the news service writes (5/23). 

According to Reuters, “Iran proposed a vote on the smallpox issue, an unusual step as the … United Nations agency reaches most decisions by consensus. Other nations rejected Iran’s suggestion in favor of setting up a working group to seek a compromise.” The issue will be raised again on Tuesday, the last day of the meeting, the news service reports (Lewis, 5/23).

Also at the meeting on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a draft plan calling on member states to “address priorities to assist child malnutrition, low birth weights, growing rates of child obesity, maternal malnutrition and obesity and the consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies for mothers and children,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C notes (5/23). 

According to UNAIDS, the WHA on Monday “adopted a new comprehensive Global Health Sector Strategy for HIV/AIDS 2011-2015,” which “aims to provide a detailed and comprehensive guide to how health sectors can most effectively tackle the epidemic” and “is fully aligned with, and complements, the UNAIDS strategy 2011-15, Getting to Zero” (5/23).

The WHA also “unanimously endorsed a resolution on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which include cancer, heart disease and diabetes,” Reuters writes (5/23). Additional information on the proceedings of the 64th WHA is available on the WHO website (5/24).

FOX News reports on the WHO’s financial situation, writing, “[b]ridging WHO’s budgetary chasm would be a lot easier if a variety of nations that want a larger voice in U.N. affairs agreed to step up their contributions. But their track record is dismal” (Russell, 5/23).