The Sixty-eighth session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 18th to 26th May 2015. The Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
The World Health Assembly is held annually and is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. Its main functions are to determine the policies of the Organisation, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. This year, the president of the WHA was Mr Jagat Prakash Nadda. WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan and the Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, her Excellency Angela Merkel, addressed the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly.
CBM contributed to the WHA 2015 through three different interventions:
Action for better hearing: promoting ear and hearing care at primary level
Participation in the Side Event: “Action for better hearing: promoting ear and hearing care at primary level”, held on 18th May 2015. This event was led by ISA (International Association of Audiology) and IFOS (International Federation of Otorhinolaryngological Societies) which, like CBM, are members of the INGO Consortium which support the work of WHO in Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss. WHO presided the panel, integrated also by representatives of WHO Member States South Africa and the Russian Federation, IFHOH (International Federation of Hard Of Hearing people) and GFCHL (Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss).
Building on the health MDGs – ensuring the SDGs leave no one behind
Co-organisation of Side Event: “Building on the health MDGs – ensuring the SDGs leave no one behind”, held on 22nd May 2015 and led by Sightsavers, Handicap International, the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and the Global Health Council.
Attendance and support of the WHA proceedings
Attendance and support of the WHA proceedings for the progress report on resolution WHA 48.9 on Prevention of Hearing Impairment, held during 25th and 26th May 2015. CBM was actively involved in raising awareness and advocating among WHO Members States for their support to propose a new resolution, to follow on WHA 48.9, which was passed in 1995. The outcome from the joint efforts of many different actors was very satisfactory and encouraging for the area of Ear and Hearing Care.
Mr Lars Bosselmann, CBM Interim Director of International Alliances and Advocacy; Ms Sally Harvest, CBM Advisor for Ear and Hearing Care, Dr Andrew Smith, (CBM advisor, representing the Hearing Conservation Council and the INGO Consortium at this WHA) and Dr Diego Santana-Hernandez, CBM Senior Advisor for Ear and Hearing Care, participated at different stages of the WHA and Side Events.
Statements on Hearing Loss
A significant number of WHO Member States contributed by making individual or joint statements related to the topic of Hearing Loss. The statement presented by Gabon & Sao Tome & Principe on behalf of all 47 African member states, strongly recommended that there should be a new resolution on hearing loss developed by next year. This call was echoed by Panama in a detailed statement on disabling hearing loss. There was a detailed statement by the USA delegation, echoed by the United Kingdom. The Philippines and Chinese Taipei (an observer) made statements about disabling hearing loss. The delegations from Iraq, Indonesia and Australia also referred to hearing loss in their interventions. The Russian Federation asked WHO to fast-track its activities in this field, while Chinafocussed on the need for greater technical support in this area. Many countries noted that the report was in response to a 20-year old resolution and there was need to update. INGO Consortium member ISA (International Society of Audiology) also contributed with a statement.
In summary, a total of 56 Member States, 1 observer and 1 NGO in official relations made statements about disabling hearing loss. 48 Member States and 1 NGO in official relations specifically called for a new resolution on hearing loss.
However, despite this success and the encouragement derived from having gained the interest of many WHO Member States, the advocacy work is not finished yet. Follow up interventions need to take place, in the form of written requests by Member States currently in WHO Executive Board, so that the proposal for a new resolution on hearing loss can be included in the agenda of their next meeting and that a resolution is adopted at the next World Health Assembly in 2016. CBM will continue its efforts to advocate for such a resolution to be tabled in 2016.