KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 – Malaysia’s Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has been appointed chair of a new World Health Organization (WHO) committee that was formed to expedite the response to pandemics.
Dr Noor Hisham, a surgeon who led Malaysia’s Covid-19 response during the pandemic, is to serve as chair of the WHO’s Standing Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (SCHEPPR) for a one-year term.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave his special thanks to Dr Noor Hisham and the committee’s vice-chair, Professor Jérôme Salomon of France, in opening remarks at the standing committee’s first meeting, held virtually last Monday.
“This Standing Committee is another part – and a crucial part – of the new architecture for health emergency preparedness and response that is now being constructed,” Tedros said.
“As you all know, the Covid-19 has revealed serious gaps in the world’s defences against epidemics, pandemics and other health emergencies. And we know that, unfortunately, this will not be the last pandemic, nor the large-scale health emergency.
“With urbanisation, habitat destruction, intensive agriculture and climate change, these risks are converging with unprecedented frequency and intensity.”
Dr Noor Hisham said the Standing Committee will meet at least twice annually, besides convening extraordinary meetings for urgent matters if necessary.
“The work of the SCHEPPR needs to be complementary & avoid duplication with other relevant processes,” he tweeted.
The WHO’s 34-member Executive Board, during its annual meeting last May, agreed to form the SCHEPPR to help speed up its response to global health emergencies like Covid-19, after the United Nations health agency was criticised for being slow to respond to the pandemic when the coronavirus was first detected.
According to the terms of reference, the Standing Committee shall provide guidance to the WHO Executive Board and advice to the WHO director-general on health emergency prevention, preparedness, and response, and immediate capacities of the WHO Emergencies Programme, in the event a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) is determined.
In the event a PHEIC is determined pursuant to the International Health Regulations 2005, the WHO Director-General shall convene an extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee as soon as reasonably practicable, and ideally within 24 hours following the determination of the PHEIC.
Member states, in whose territory a potential pandemic outbreak occurs, shall be invited to present their views to the Standing Committee.