WHO members agree to reform so it can respond more quickly to emergencies

A woman waits for a consultation at the Star of the Sun Health Centre in the Monrovia township of West Point on April 29, 2016.
A woman waits for a consultation at the Star of the Sun Health Centre in the Monrovia township of West Point on April 29, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Member states of the World Health Organisation have agreed to long-awaited reform of the agency so that it responds more quickly and effectively to emergency situations.

Accused of having wasted months before declaring war on the Ebola virus in west Africa, WHO has developed a programme to cope better with disease outbreaks and health emergencies.

"WHO member states today agreed to one of the most profound transformations in the organisation's history, establishing a new Health Emergencies Programme," WHO said in a statement on Wednesday (May 25).

"The new programme is designed to deliver rapid, predictable, and comprehensive support to countries and communities as they prepare for, face or recover from emergencies caused by any type of hazard to human health, whether disease outbreaks, natural or man-made disasters or conflicts."

To fund the reforms, WHO delegates meeting this week in Geneva approved an increase of US$160 million (S$220 million) in the existing programme budget for emergencies for 2016-2017.

In total, the new programme will have US$494 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

The reforms mean all WHO activities for emergency situations will come under a single programme, with its own staff.

The new teams are to be operational at WHO headquarters in Geneva and the six regional offices by the end of 2016.