Public Health Analysis South Africa

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    Global health at risk: AHF warns against unfair WHO Pandemic Agreement

    Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has issued a dire warning about the current draft of the World Health Organization (WHO) Pandemic Agreement.
    Source: Supplied.
    Source: Supplied.

    With the final negotiations imminent, AHF criticises the document's glaring oversite of equity and transparency, highlighting that it will pave the way for a global health disaster comparable to or worse than the Covid-19 pandemic unless these key points are addressed.

    "The agreement, as drafted, is a recipe for disaster," says Kate Ssamula, country programme director for AHF South Africa. "It lacks enforceability, it's riddled with empty promises, and shockingly, it capitulates to pharmaceutical interests over global health needs. This isn't precaution; it's peril."

    Significant flaws in the current WHO Pandemic Agreement draft:

    • Inadequate health product guarantees: The agreement shockingly promises only 20% coverage of essential health products during future pandemics, leaving a vast 80% subject to the brutal market competition and scarcity witnessed during the Covid-19 era. This sets the stage for a repeat of past inequities where wealthy nations hoarded life-saving treatments.
    • Exclusion of civil society in planning: The draft sidelines crucial voices from civil society and non-governmental organisations despite their proven impact on managing health crises. This exclusion raises serious concerns about the agreement's fairness and inclusiveness.
    • Neglect of equity and fair access: The draft must be revised to ensure equitable access to health resources. With developed countries shaping the agreement to protect drug companies, the rest of the world is left vulnerable and unprepared showcasing blatant upholding of pharma greed.
    • Absence of accountability and enforcement: Without stringent rules or an independent oversight body, the agreement offers no assurance that nations will adhere to their commitments, essentially making it toothless and ineffective.

    Consequences of a weak agreement

    "The consequences of passing this agreement are unimaginable," warns Ssamula "The African continent is at risk of entering the next global health crisis blindfolded, with our hands tied and again at the mercy of wealthy nations. The agreement leaves too much to chance – an open invitation to catastrophe."

    AHF strongly advocates for a complete overhaul of the agreement, demanding:

    • A guarantee of at least 80% coverage of essential health products globally during pandemics,
    • Enforceable commitments with clear penalties for non-compliance,
    • An independent oversight mechanism to monitor and report on progress,
    • Full participation of civil society and affected communities in the agreement's drafting and implementation.
    Source: Supplied.
    Source: Supplied.

    "Remember how Big Pharma blocked vaccine access during Covid-19? The Pandemic Agreement must put health over profits.

    "The WHO needs to allow countries to suggest clauses to help stop this from happening again. In the final stretch of negotiations, countries would be wise to remember how we got here, what needs to be accomplished through the pandemic agreement, and, most importantly – what the consequences will be if it fails.

    “Therefore, we urge that delegates heed experts' warnings and take action to correct critical shortcomings in the proposed text. Empty handshakes in Geneva will not prevent another global health disaster, nor will it keep countries from trampling over each other when the next pandemic comes," concludes Ssamula

    Call to action

    In the shadow of Covid-19, the world cannot afford to ignore the lessons of the past. AHF urges all stakeholders to reconsider the path forward and to forge an agreement that genuinely prioritises global health security over profit. The time to act is now—before it is too late.

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