World Health Organization (WHO) and its Role and responsibilities

Who is WHO :

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by 61 countries on 22 July 1946, with the first meeting of the World Health Assembly finishing on 22 July 1946.

Role of WHO :

It has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox and its current priorities include communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases such as sexual and reproductive health, development, and aging; nutrition, food security and healthy eating.

The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, the worldwide World Health Survey, and World Health Day. The head of the organization is the Director-General, elected by the World Health Assembly. The term lasts for 5 years, and Director-Generals are typically appointed in May, when the Assembly meets. The current Director-General is Dr. Tedros Adhanom  Ghebreyesus, who was appointed on 1 July 2017.

Objective of WHO :

The WHO’s Constitution states that its objective “is the achievement by all people of the highest possible level of health”.

  1. To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.
  2. To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services .
  3. To provide appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments.
  4. To eradicate epidemic, (any infectious disease that develops and spreads rapidly to many people) endemic (a disease that is constantly present in people of a certain class or in people living in a particular location) and other diseases.
  5. To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene.
  6. Monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.

Achievements of WHO :

  1. In 1988, WHO launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to eradicate polio and it has also been successful in helping to reduce cases by 99%. As of 2011, it has been working to immunize young children and prevent the re-emergence of cases in countries declared “polio-free”.  Polio is now no longer in existence and the World Health Organization (WHO) stated the eradication programme has saved millions from deadly disease.
  2. Between 1990 and 2010, WHO’s help has contributed to a 40% decline in the number of deaths from tuberculosis, and since 2005, over 46 million people have been treated and an estimated 7 million lives saved through practices advocated by WHO.
  3. During the 1970s, WHO had dropped its commitment to a global malaria eradication campaign and it retained a strong commitment to malaria control.
  4. As of 2015, the WHO has worked to help deal with the economic and social effects of HIV/AIDS and WHO has set itself the interim task between 2009 and 2015 of reducing the number of those aged 15–24 years who are infected by 50%; reducing new HIV infections in children by 90%; and reducing HIV-related deaths by 25%.
  5. WHO is aimed at the prevention and reduction of disease, disability and premature deaths from chronic noncommunicable diseases, mental disorders, violence and injuries, and visual impairment.
  6. WHO tries to prevent or reduce risk factors for health conditions associated with use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and other psychoactive substances, unhealthy diets and unsafe sex.

Challenges for WHO :

  1. In 2019, air pollution is considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to health. Microscopic pollutants in the air can penetrate respiratory and circulatory systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain, killing 7 million people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart and lung disease. Around 90% of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries. In October 2018, WHO held its first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health in Geneva. Countries and organizations made more than 70 commitments to improve air quality.
  2. Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide, or 41 million people. This includes 15 million people dying prematurely, aged between 30 and 69.  The rise of these diseases has been driven by five major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution. Among many things, this year WHO will work with governments to help them meet the global target of reducing physical inactivity by 15% by 2030 .
  3. In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw two separate Ebola outbreaks, both of which spread to cities of more than 1 million people. WHO’s R&D Blueprint identifies diseases and pathogens that have potential to cause a public health emergency but lack effective treatments and vaccines.
  4. Primary health care is usually the first point of contact people have with their health care system, and ideally should provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care throughout life. In 2019, WHO will work with partners to strengthen primary health care in countries.
  5. Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be lethal and kill up to 20% of those with severe dengue, has been a growing threat for decades. An estimated 40% of the world is at risk of dengue fever, and there are around 390 million infections a year. WHO’s Dengue control strategy aims to reduce deaths by 50% by 2020. 

Financing and partnerships of WHO :

The WHO is financed by contributions from member states and outside donors. As of 2012, the largest annual assessed contributions from member states came from the United States ($110 million), Japan ($58 million), Germany ($37 million), United Kingdom ($31 million) and France ($31 million). The combined 2012–2013 budget has proposed a total expenditure of $3,959 million, of which $944 million (24%) will come from assessed contributions. 


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