April 17, 2020
Health and international development organisations working in Ireland are rallying behind the Irish Government’s ongoing support of the World Health Organization, which they say has helped to minimise the spread of COVID-19 at home and will have far-reaching impact overseas.
Just yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney announced that the State would contribute €9.5m to the WHO this year to help with the global response to COVID-19. Ireland was the first country internationally to contribute to the appeal in February— with an initial commitment of €1m.
Ruairi Brugha, Former Head of the Department of Public Health & Epidemiology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland said:
“WHO has been performing two of its core functions – the timely sharing of data on the global evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the provision of technical support and guidance on best practice control measures – to a high standard. These functions will become even more important as the pandemic takes hold in resource-poor countries, which lack the intensive care facilities that wealthy countries have been putting in place.
“Such countries will be relying on WHO guidance and support in how to undertake epidemiological surveillance, infection control, treatment and care, and the protection of essential health services in conditions that those living in wealthy countries can hardly imagine. The importance of supporting and enabling WHO to carry out these core functions cannot be underestimated at this time”
Ireland currently contributes 1.68 million euro to WHO annually, ranking proportionally high on the list of voluntary funding compared to countries like France, Spain and Portugal. Yesterday’s announcement by Coveney was welcomed by development organisations who say it will enable the WHO to strengthen their response to the pandemic, particularly in support of countries with weaker health systems.
But the support doesn’t end there. Hundreds of Irish people have worked for the WHO, including Dr Mike Ryan a former epidemiologist specialising in infectious disease, who currently leads the team responsible for the global containment of COVID-19.
Irish Global Health Network, Executive Director, Nadine Ferris France said:
“As a direct result of our ongoing collaboration with the World Health Organization on health systems strengthening; our involvement through the Global Health Workforce Network; the ongoing work of our development and humanitarian organisations; along with our institutional record of providing staff on secondment to work within the WHO, we were in an excellent position to apply the very best and latest practices in infectious disease containment for the Coronavirus outbreak in Ireland and overseas.”
For disease epidemics, the WHO serves as a coordinating body— guiding containment, declaring emergencies and making recommendations based on international best practices for treatment and prevention. Ireland has a strong record of working with the WHO in such circumstances.
During the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Ireland played its part in stopping the spread of the virus through programmes focused on strengthening health systems. A major component of the work was in the provision of public health specialists from the Health Service Executive who were deployed to work with the World Health Organization. Funding also covered essential items like beds, ambulance services, vital nutrition to children, blankets, water tanks, medical training, and public awareness campaigns.
Chief Executive Officer of Dóchas, Suzanne Keatinge said:
“Ireland has always demonstrated solidarity to those most vulnerable at home and abroad and we applaud the Irish government’s support to the WHO as an extension of that global solidarity. Now more than ever we need to invest in the multilateral system and work collectively – this pandemic will impact every country in the world, but not equally – we have to do everything we can to make sure the furthest behind aren’t left behind.”
Mark Cumming, Head of Comhlámh, added:
“In times where we see a rise of nationalism and isolationism in many places, it is important to redouble our commitment and efforts around principles of international solidarity and cooperation. The idea and practices of the WHO are an integral part of those principles and play an invaluable role in helping peoples of the world face the shared multiple challenges ahead of us.”