• AHF, CSOs raise concern over WHO pandemic agreement proposal

    Ahf csos raise concern over who pandemic agreement proposal - nigeria newspapers online
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    The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and the AHF Global Public Health Institute, in collaboration with some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called for a readjustment of the current draft of the World Health Organisation (WHO) pandemic agreement to strengthen the international community’s ability to detect and respond to future pandemics threat, particularly in developing nations.

    They highlighted that the latest iteration of the proposal text, which has been significantly watered down through the negotiation process, is filled with platitudes, anemic in obligations, and devoid of any accountability.

    The AHF Nigeria Country Program Director, Dr. Echey Ijezie, during a press briefing, alongside other CSOs, in Abuja on Thursday, also said, the text now lacks the requisite power to operationalize equity and achieve its intended objectives as is falling victim to least-common-denominator policymaking in Geneva.

    “We expressed profound concern that developed nations have vehemently defended the private interest of pharmaceutical companies over the collective common interest of achieving global health security in a sustainable and equitable manner.”

    “Such disregard has been observed in the proposed compromise for the WHO Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing System, which the Lancet has described as not only “shameful, unjust, and inequitable” but also “ignorant,” he said.

    While speaking, he said, under the present terms of the agreement, a mere 20 per cent of pandemic-related health products are guaranteed to the WHO in the event of a pandemic.

    “As the Lancet points out, such an arrangement will effectively leave 80 per cent of crucial vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics “prey to the international scramble seen in COVID-19.” Have we learned nothing from the COVID-19 Pandemic? He enquired.

    He also said, while the INB and delegates have undoubtedly been working diligently to reach an agreement, a simple fact remains: Equity will not be operationalized without effective mechanisms for accountability and enforcement.

    “Despite warnings by technical experts, the INB has persistently failed to incorporate tangible provisions for accountability and enforcement.”

    “In the current proposal, Article 8 language regarding Preparedness Monitoring and Functional Reviews has been withered to nothing; Article 19, Implementation and Support, contains no reporting or verification requirements; previously proposed mechanisms for an accountability committee have been deleted instead of strengthened, and the text now moves forward without any effective means for timely and accurate verification of party compliance.”

    “Calls for strong mechanisms of accountability in the pandemic agreement are widespread but have not been heeded. They have been made by the United Nations General Assembly and prominent international bodies, including the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) and the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR).”

    “In addition to the GPMB and the IPPPR, the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention and Spark Street Advisors have also emphasized the critical need for independent monitoring.”

    “The absence of any form of independent oversight is concerning because proven and practical experience confirms that relying solely on state self-reporting mechanisms does not work. Yes, instead of learning from the widespread delays and incomplete self-reporting experience of the International Health Regulations (IHR), the pandemic agreement promotes more of the same practices that have compromised global health security in the past.”

    The Country Director however said, to ensure its objectivity and effectiveness, the agreement should, at minimum, consider establishing an independent oversight body that is “politically, financially, technically and operationally independent of the WHO and donors.”

    He added that accountability also requires a clear enforcement framework with incentives and disincentives for compliance.

    “The two major treaties under the authority of the WHO, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the IHR, are described in the literature as having been “plagued by incomplete compliance.” Incomplete compliance with the IHR, for example, “contributed to COVID-19 becoming a protracted global health pandemic.”

    “Compliance, however, has been largely ignored by all parties and brushed under the rug throughout the negotiations. This is reflected in the current text, which does not mention the word compliance even once.”

    “To this end, we echo the concerns of the Panel for a Global Public Health Convention that the idea of a Compliance and Implementation Committee should not have been dropped from the text.”

    In his remark, the National Coordinator network of people living with HIV, Abdulkadir Ibrahim who noted the role of civil society as critical partners to global responses on pandemics and related issues emphasized the need for government and political leaders to prioritize the safety of human lives.

    Also speaking the President of Lawyers Alert, Barrister Rommy Mom, said pandemic response should be “Right based” where the world can implement Rights policies especially in the global south, he called for compliance and monitoring.

    “When-we approach the issues of pandemic, low-income countries find it difficult to access drugs because people can’t afford them, but if we look at it from a human rights angle, people should have access to lifesaving medication”

    Deputy National Chairperson, Alliance for Covid-19 and Beyond and Focal Person, Climate Change, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Hajia Hauwa Mustapha, also highlighted some of the causes of pandemics and said it is important for a constant check on the consumption of chemicals that are likely to cause pandemic rather than managing pandemics.

    On her part, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Network of Religious Leaders Living with and affected by HIV/AIDS (NINERELA+) MS. Amber Itohan Erinmwinhe, emphasised that the core role of civil societies engagements should be repositioned and defined in the engagement on pandemic responses.

    The Vice President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists, (NAWOJ), Mrs Chizoba Ogbeche noted that the protection of women and children in society against future pandemics should be paramount and called for a systemic change amongst big pharmas

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