The World Health Organisation says there is a need to broaden the ‘One Health Approach’ and make it a reality, not just a concept.
WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said this during an online media conference tagged COVID-19, on Wednesday.
Ghebreyesus said in 2022, the tripartite became quadripartite with the addition of the UN Environment Programme.
“In March ending, the quadripartite held its executive annual meeting in Geneva.
“Together, we released a call to action to translate the One Health concept into concrete policy action in countries.
“We are calling on countries to prioritise One Health, by strengthening the policies, strategies, plans, evidence, investment, and workforce needed to properly address the threats that arise from our relationship with animals and the environment.
“To support these actions, the quadripartite in March ending endorsed a draft guide for the implementation of the One Health Joint Plan of Action,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said that the organisation was pleased to see that ‘One Health’ had been included as a key principle in the “zero draft” of the pandemic accord that countries are now negotiating.
According to him, a One Health approach will be essential for preventing viruses from spilling over from animals to humans.
The WHO boss said it was how many outbreaks had started, including HIV, Marburg, Ebola, avian influenza, mpox, MERS and the SARS epidemic in 2003.
“One of the most instrumental people in identifying SARS as a new and deadly disease was Dr. Carlo Urbani, who was the director of infectious diseases for WHO’s Western Pacific Region, working in Vietnam.
“One day, Dr Urbani received a call from a hospital in Hanoi to assist in investigating what appeared to be a severe case of flu. After examining the patient, he realised it was not flu, and something else was going on,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said that Urbani’s rapid actions were critical in helping to contain the epidemic by triggering a global response that was key to stopping the outbreak in Vietnam, and saving countless lives around the world.
He said that the outbreaks of Marburg virus disease was another reminder that the world can only truly protect human health if they also protect the health of animals and the planet, which sustains all life.
“One Health is not a new concept. For decades, WHO has been working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health in a tripartite partnership,” he said.
He said that such action would help to address the health risks that would arise from the interactions between humans, animals and the environment.