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International Health Regulations

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

International Health Regulations

What to study?

For Prelims: IHR- origins, objectives and particulars.

For Mains: Significance and the need for IHR, role of WHO in times of health emergencies.

Context: Fifty-eight countries, including 27 members of the European Union and India have moved a draft resolution demanding evaluation of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s response towards novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The resolution will be tabled in the 74th World Health Assembly to be convened by the WHO.

What the resolution demands?

  1. Tough action against and transparency on the response to the coronavirus outbreak by China.
  2. Address questions raised about the World Health Organization (WHO) as an organisation and its response to the pandemic.
  3. An “impartial”, “independent” and “comprehensive” evaluation to review lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated response.
  4. The “effectiveness” of mechanisms at WHO’s disposal — namely the 2005 International Health Regulations.

What is IHR?

The International Health Regulations, or IHR (2005), represent an agreement between 196 countries including all WHO Member States to work together for global health security.

  • Through IHR, countries have agreed to build their capacities to detect, assess and report public health events.
  • WHO plays the coordinating role in IHR and, together with its partners, helps countries to build capacities.
  • IHR also includes specific measures at ports, airports and ground crossings to limit the spread of health risks to neighbouring countries, and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions so that traffic and trade disruption is kept to a minimum.

Criticisms surrounding WHO’s response in the wake of pandemic:

  • WHO was late in declaring not only human-to-human transmission but also global health emergency and then the pandemic.
  • Till as late as February, the WHO did not support countries for imposing travel restrictions to China.
  • The WHO has come under sharp criticism not just from the United States but other quarters as well for its response being ‘China-centric’.


Prelims Link:

  1. Health under 7th
  2. WHO funding mechanism.
  3. What is world health assembly?
  4. What is IHR?
  5. When a disease is declared as pandemic and endemic?

Mains Link:

Discuss why WHO is being criticised for its response in the wake of COVID-19 induced pandemic? What should have been its response?

Sources: down to earth.