International Agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health. It was established on 7 April 1948, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group. Its predecessor, the Health Organization, was an agency of the League of Nations. The constitution of the World Health Organization had been signed by 61 countries on 22 July 1946, with the first meeting of the World Health Assembly finishing on 24 July 1948. It incorporated the Office International d’Hygiène Publique and the League of Nations Health Organization.

Since its creation, it has played a leading role in the eradication of smallpox. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; the mitigation of the effects of non-communicable diseases; sexual and reproductive health, development, and aging; nutrition, food security and healthy eating; occupational health; substance abuse; and driving the development of reporting, publications, and networking. The WHO is responsible for the World Health Report, a leading international publication on health, the worldwide World Health Survey, and World Health Day (7 April of every year). The head of WHO is Margaret Chan.

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Structure:

As of 2013, the WHO has 194 member states: all Member States of the United Nations except Liechtenstein, as well as the Cook Islands and Niue. (A state becomes a full member of WHO by ratifying the treaty known as the Constitution of the World Health Organization.) As of 2013, it also had two associate members, Puerto Rico and Tokelau. Several other entities have been granted observer status. Palestine is an observer as a “national liberation movement” recognised by the League of Arab States under United Nations Resolution 3118. The Holy See also attends as an observer, as does the Order of Malta. In 2010, Taiwan was invited under the name of “Chinese Taipei”.

WHO Member States appoint delegations to the World Health Assembly, WHO’s supreme decision-making body. All UN Member States are eligible for WHO membership, and, according to the WHO web site, “other countries may be admitted as members when their application has been approved by a simple majority vote of the World Health Assembly”.

In addition, the UN observer organizations International Committee of the Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have entered into “official relations” with WHO and are invited as observers. In the World Health Assembly they are seated alongside the other NGOs.

Regional offices :

The regional divisions of WHO were created between 1949 and 1952, and are based on article 44 of WHO’s constitution, which allowed the WHO to “establish a [single] regional organization to meet the special needs of [each defined] area”. Many decisions are made at regional level, including important discussions over WHO’s budget, and in deciding the members of the next assembly, which are designated by the regions.

Each region has a Regional Committee, which generally meets once a year, normally in the autumn. Representatives attend from each member or associative member in each region, including those states that are not fully recognised. For example, Palestine attends meetings of the Eastern Mediterranean Regional office. Each region also has a regional office. Each Regional Office is headed by a Regional Director, who is elected by the Regional Committee. The Board must approve such appointments, although as of 2004, it had never overruled the preference of a regional committee. The exact role of the board in the process has been a subject of debate, but the practical effect has always been small. Since 1999, Regional Directors serve for a once-renewable five-year term.

Each Regional Committee of the WHO consists of all the Health Department heads, in all the governments of the countries that constitute the Region. Aside from electing the Regional Director, the Regional Committee is also in charge of setting the guidelines for the implementation, within the region, of the health and other policies adopted by the World Health Assembly. The Regional Committee also serves as a progress review board for the actions of WHO within the Region.

The Regional Director is effectively the head of WHO for his or her Region. The RD manages and/or supervises a staff of health and other experts at the regional offices and in specialized centers. The RD is also the direct supervising authority—concomitantly with the WHO Director-General—of all the heads of WHO country offices, known as WHO Representatives, within the Region.

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Overall focus :

The WHO’s Constitution states that its objective “is the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health”.

WHO fulfills its objective through its functions as defined in its Constitution:

(a) to act as the directing and co-ordinating authority on international health work.
(b) to establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate
(c) to assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services
(d) to furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments
(e) to provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the United Nations, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the peoples of trust territories
(f) to establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required, including epidemiological and statistical services.

(g) to stimulate and advance work to eradicate epidemic, endemic and other diseases
(h) to promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the prevention of accidental injuries
(i) to promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene
(j) to promote co-operation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health
(k) to propose conventions, agreements and regulations, and make recommendations with respect to international health matters and to perform.

WHO currently defines its role in public health as follows:

1. providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed;
2. shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge;
3. setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation;
4. articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options;
5. providing technical support, catalyzing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
6. monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Health_Organization

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