Highlights from the the World Health Assembly

The UN Foundation’s Negin Janati is in Geneva for the World Health Assembly and sends along these highlights from day two of the meeting of the World Health Organization.

— Wearing a lapel-pin stamped “END POLIO NOW,” Bill Gates renewed his commitment to fighting disease at World Health Assembly today. He thanked WHO and its Member States for their continued leadership, and called for increased political and financial support for vaccines.  You can watch his speech here.

— Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina addressed the Assembly as well, noting marked progress for her country, including its maternal mortality rate plummeting 66 percent in ten years. PM Sheikh also touched on health and development targets she has set for Bangladesh to become a middle-income nation within the next ten years, proclaiming “Health is wealth.” [Bonus: Check out UN Dispatch’s on-the-ground coverage of the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria in Bangladesh.]

–Japanese and WHO experts briefed Member States on radiation and public health issues, at both the national and international level, following the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Public health responses, radiation effects, international coordination and communication were some of the more prominent themes as delegates shared their experiences with managing radiation emergencies.

–The Director General opened debates on WHO reform, the largest in it’s 63 year history, by affirming change is imperative for “the outdated management structures and approaches that threaten to hold us back, and make WHO less influential than it deserves to be.” The DG went on to say that the reform is not a reaction to the financial crisis, but rather a broader opportunity for WHO to change and become more effective, efficient, responsive, objective, transparent and accountable.