24 May 2023 – This week saw the start of 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva with an ominous warning from the head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who stated that the world should be prepared to respond to a disease outbreak of “even deadlier potential” than COVID-19.
Today, at the WHA, a high-level roundtable on preventing the next pandemic and One Health took place with WHO Member States. It was co-hosted by FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, andThe Group of Friends of One Health, an informal group headed by the Australian and French Permanent Missions to the United Nations Office in Geneva.
The event, "One Health in practice: Preventing the next pandemic before communities suffer", focused on ensuring that the Pandemic Treaty incorporated a holistic One Health approach in order to prevent pandemics at source and thus protect communities and enable equity. Holistic health crises such as pandemics, are not a human health matter alone and can only be effectively addressed jointly with all relevant stakeholders across the human-animal-environment interface.
The speakers included Minister of Health of Argentina, Carla Vizzotti, Ambassador of Global Health of France Anne-Claire Amprou, Deputy Director of the CDC in the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand Dr. Sopon Iamsirithaworn, Dr. Sylvie Briand Director of the Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases Department at the WHO and Dr. Chadia Wannous, One Health Global Coordinator World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).
In Minister of Health of Argentina Carla Vizzotti’s speech, she shared that “Argentina is committed to enhancing its International Health Regulations core capacities, tracking AMR, strengthening biosafety and biosecurity, preventing zoonotic diseases, raising awareness, advocating for and implementing the One Health approach. Argentina has a track record of interdisciplinary work in this area, and leads by example in the Region of the Americas and it is once again a pioneer by enacting the Law on AMR Prevention and Control that provides us with a fundamental tool at this historical moment, when AMR has become a key issue in the global public health agenda.”
Chadia Wannous, WOAH, highlighted, “Supporting communities at the human-animal-environment interface, in protecting themselves, animals and the environment, is a prerequisite for reducing the risk of zoonotic outbreaks and spillover events. Several countries from all regions of the world have already been working successfully with the One Health approach to tackle complex health challenges. We believe that incorporating it throughout the instrument and ensuring there is support for its implementation will be crucial in our efforts to develop an effective pandemic instrument."
Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS Pandemic Prevention Expert, stated, “With 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases originating in animals, protecting animals, the environment and the communities that come into daily contact with pathogens is how we can prevent pandemics. As all delegations from WHO Member States gather here in Geneva for the WHA it was important to bring together and hear from Member States, the Quadripartite and key stakeholders on how far they have gotten in implementing a One Health approach as well as how crucial it is to incorporate One Health and support its implementation within the Pandemic Treaty.
“As negotiations continue and further drafts of the Treaty emerge, we must ensure that the treaty enables collaboration across the human-animal-environment interface because working together with the communities at the interface and relevant stakeholders to improve the welfare of animals and the state of our environment will protect human health.
"By enabling the implementation of One Health to prevent pandemics, governments will show unwavering leadership in ensuring that the devastating suffering and immense economic losses which occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic do not happen again! We need to show communities that they will not be forgotten or left behind but supported in their efforts to transition away from high-risk practices so that they can protect themselves and help prevent the next pandemic.”
Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS Pandemic Prevention Expert
Participating Quadripartite institutions and Member States emphasised that a collaborative, integrated, unifying approach that sustainably optimises the health and wellbeing of animals, humans, and the environment must be integrated into the pandemic treaty in order to achieve equity and effective pandemic prevention by tackling the root causes of emerging infectious diseases before they lead to outbreaks.
The event provided Permanent Missions, Quadripartite and other relevant stakeholders with concrete insights and examples of the operationalisation of One Health and increased confidence in the benefits of capturing the One Health approach within the pandemic instrument.
In response to the global fallout of COVID-19, in December 2021, at its second-ever special session, the World Health Assembly established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organization to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The INB’s work is based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, efficiency, Member State leadership and consensus.
An international pandemic instrument will be an important step towards building a more resilient international health architecture and protecting the world from future health crises. With the frequency and severity of pandemics increasing, the inclusion of prevention into the instrument’s scope is welcome and necessary.
The One Health definition developed by the OHHLEP and supported by the Quadripartite
One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems.
It recognizes the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and inter-dependent.
The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development.
One Health is intended to make a difference to our deliberations, decision-making, planning and practice. This is important because we know that we need to do things differently if we are to avoid further pandemics, tackle our environmental crises, and prevent widespread suffering. One Health should constitute a fundamental shift towards a unifying concern for the health of all people and animals in the environments they share, and a holistic consideration of all aspects and determinants of their health. A One Health approach should not simply help us prepare to reduce the impacts of the health and environmental crises. It must also enable us to prevent crises from occurring in the first place. This requires us to tackle the root causes.
The Group of Friends is an informal group of Member States – currently including Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and United States, as well as the European Union – working to effectively reflect the One Health approach in the work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on an international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, offers its support to all Member States to ensure the international community captures the One Health approach as a vital component of the pandemic instrument to prevent zoonotic diseases from becoming pandemics.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au