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WHO’s ‘pandemic treaty’

  • Published
    7th Jun, 2023
Context

Recently, the latest version of the draft Pandemic Instrument, also referred to as the “pandemic treaty,” was shared with Member States at the World Health Assembly (WHA), where addressing ‘antimicrobial resistance ‘in the Pandemic Instrument were at risk of removal.

Background
  • Work on the Pandemic Instrument began in December 2021 after the World Health Assembly agreed to a global process to draft and negotiate an international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • It aims to protect nations and communities from future pandemic emergencies.

What is Pandemic Treaty/Instrument?

  • The treaty aims to address the challenges posed by pandemics and other global health emergencies.
  • The zero-draft of the pandemic treaty was established based on recognising the catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

What are the Principal Components of the Draft?

  • Global Cooperation: It calls for increased global coordination and cooperation in the preparation for and response to pandemics and other global health emergencies.
  • Strengthening of Health Systems: It emphasizes the need to strengthen health systems in all countries, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to ensure they are better prepared to respond to pandemics and other global health emergencies.
  • Investment in Research and Development: It calls for improved access to essential health technologies, such as vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments, during pandemics and other global health emergencies.
  • It calls for increased investment in research and development of health technologies, particularly for diseases that pose a significant threat to global health.
  • Transparency in Sharing of Information: It calls for increased transparency and sharing of information about pandemics and other global health emergencies, including data on the spread of diseases and the effectiveness of interventions.
  • Pathogen Access and Benefit-Sharing System: The constitution of a PABS has been constituted under the WHO, making Genomic sequences of all pathogens with pandemic potential to be shared on an “equal footing” in the system.
  • The PABS system is an important tool for ensuring the responsible and equitable use of pathogens and their genetic resources in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines, while also recognizing the rights and interests of the countries and communities that provide these resources.
  • Addressing Gender Disparities:
  • In addressing gender disparities in the healthcare workforce, the draft aims to “ensure meaningful representation, engagement, participation and empowerment of all health and care workers” by stressing equal pay and addressing barriers specific to women in taking leadership roles.

What is the issue?

  • The researchers argued that the Pandemic Instrument was overly focused on viral threats and ignored AMR and bacterial threats, including the need to manage antibiotics as a common-pool resource and revitalize research and development of novel antimicrobial drugs.

What provisions does the treaty lack?

Sections of the text which may be removed include measures to prevent infections (caused by bacteria, viruses and other microbes), such as:

  • better access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene;
  • higher standards of infection prevention and control;
  • integrated surveillance of infectious disease threats from human, animals and the environment; and
  • Strengthening antimicrobial stewardship efforts to optimize how antimicrobial drugs are used and prevent the development of AMR.

What is Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the process by which infections caused by microbes become resistant to the medicines developed to treat them.
  • Microbes include bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites.
  • Bacterial infections alone cause one in eight deaths globally.

Why AMR is a cause of concern?

  • AMR raises the risk of drug-resistant infections, including drug-resistant tuberculosis, drug-resistant pneumonia etc.
  • These infections are killing and debilitating millions of people annually, and AMR is now a leading cause of death worldwide.

Way forward:

  • The Pandemic Instrument is the best option to mitigate AMR and safeguard lifesaving antimicrobials to treat secondary infections in pandemics.
  • Global political action is needed to ensure the international community works together to collectively mitigate AMR and support the conservation, development and equitable distribution of safe and effective antimicrobials.
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