MSF welcomes important World Health Assembly resolution to strengthen disease testing capacities in countries – World
*Governments should now implement the resolution to achieve the goal of improving access to testing for all*
May 26, 2023 – Governments passed a resolution today at the 76th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to strengthen countries’ diagnostic testing capacities. The resolution was proposed by Indonesia and governments of the African region. With almost half of the world’s population having little or no access to testing, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomed this resolution as a significant step towards improving global access to diagnostic tools. To ensure that this resolution becomes a reality, MSF calls on countries to immediately take the necessary steps to implement the resolution: countries should ensure that essential diagnostic tools and tests are affordable and accessible nationwide, and local production of diagnostic tools and supporting testing in the low- and mid-income countries (LMICs).
dr Salha Issoufou, MSF Head of Operations West and Central Africa:
“Ignorance is no blessing when it comes to disease outbreaks: timely access to the right testing tools is one of the most important parts of any medical intervention to contain an outbreak and save lives. It is therefore encouraging that access to testing is being discussed at a global level.
“We are often faced with the lack or limited availability of tests, as there are often simply no tests on the market that are appropriate for the remote emergency situations in which we work. As such, we may send samples to remote labs. There are some, which can mean waiting weeks or months for results. Delays like this can lead to delayed responses to outbreaks and unnecessary loss of life, and that is unacceptable. The fact is, it doesn’t have to be this way: the COVID pandemic has shown us that rapid, easy-to-use diagnostic tests can be plentifully available, as was the case for the wealthy countries at the front of the queue. We know it’s possible to make testing accessible and available. There should be no double standards when it comes to access to life-saving medical tests.
“We call on all governments to ensure everyone has access to life-saving testing by rapidly adopting WHO guidelines into national policies, developing national Lists of Essential Diagnoses (EDL) and providing nationwide access to essential testing for all diseases relevant to the local context, including neglected diseases, and beyond pandemics.”
Stijn Deborggraeve, Diagnostic Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign:
“We welcome this important decision to strengthen diagnostic capacity, but it must not remain on paper. To make this a reality for everyone, everywhere, we call on all governments to implement the resolution and increase access to diagnostic testing by making quality-assured testing affordable and by supporting local production of diagnostic tools, in particular in lower and middle regions -income countries.
“Every day we see a lack of testing in the countries where we work. So it’s clear that relying on a few multinational diagnostics companies to meet local healthcare needs won’t work. We need more successful collaborations between local test manufacturers and governments, such as Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos, which makes testing devices at not-for-profit prices to meet local health needs. Because if we are to increase access to testing for diseases that primarily affect people in low- and middle-income countries, local production in those countries is crucial.”
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