April 10, 2023

〇 1945: Diplomats at the San Francisco Conference plan for a World Health Organization (WHO)

Representatives of 50 States frame the structure and powers of a new international organization: the United Nations (UN). Brazilian and Chinese delegations propose “health” as a major aim of the UN Charter. Diplomats at the Conference plan for the creation of WHO as a UN specialized agency.

〇 1946: The International Health Conference drafts and adopts the WHO Constitution

Representatives of 61 States sign the Constitution. It is adopted under article 57 of the UN Charter.

April 7, 1948: WHO Constitution enters into force

Thereafter, April 7 is celebrated yearly as World Health Day. The WHO Constitution states that WHO is “to act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.”

1955: WHO launches Global Malaria Eradication Program

With malaria eradication one of WHO’s early goals, the program relied on chloroquine for malaria prevention and treatment, and DDT for mosquito control.

〇 1967: WHO launches Intensified Smallpox Eradication Program

WHO redoubles efforts to eradicate the ancient scourge of smallpox by conducting mass vaccination campaigns and adopting a new approach to prevention — surveillance and containment.

〇 1969: The World Health Assembly (WHA) adopts the International Health Regulations (IHR)

The first IHR initially covered six diseases, later refined to just three: cholera, yellow fever and plague.

〇 1978: WHO adopts the Declaration of Alma-Ata

Culminating in the Declaration of Alma-Ata, the International Conference on Primary Health Care set the sweeping goal of “Health for All.”

〇 1980: Smallpox is eradicated

The WHA officially declares: ‘the world and all its peoples have won freedom from smallpox.’

〇 1983: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus which causes AIDS, is discovered

The first antiretroviral medication for HIV was licensed 4 years later.

〇 1988: WHO launches the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

The WHA adopts a resolution calling for the eradication of polio when the disease was endemic in more than 125 countries. Cases have significantly declined, yet endemic wild poliovirus remains in two countries.

〇 2003: SARS Outbreak

Like SARS-CoV-2, SARS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a SARS-associated coronavirus. It first emerged in China then quickly spread to surrounding countries, then on to North America, South America, and Europe. The IHR were substantially revised after this outbreak.

〇 2003: WHA adopts the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)

The FCTC came into force on February 27, 2005 and currently has 182 Parties, making it one of the most widely adopted treaties in UN history.

〇 2003: WHO and UNAIDS launch the “3 by 5” initiative for HIV/AIDS treatment

The initiative aimed to bring treatment to 3 million people living with HIV by 2005.

〇 2005: The IHR are revised

Updated following the SARS outbreak, the revised IHR adopted an “all hazards” approach and reinforced WHO’s authority to prevent, control and provide a public health response to public health emergencies of international concern (PHEICs) while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.

〇 2009: WHO declares Influenza A (H1N1) to be a PHEIC

It was the first outbreak determined to be a PHEIC under the newly revised IHR. Before this outbreak, influenza A (H1N1) had never been identified as a cause of infections in people.

〇 2011: WHA unanimously adopts the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework

A novel instrument, the PIP Framework brings together states, industry, and laboratories in pandemic influenza preparedness and response, paving the way for equitable access to countermeasures in pandemics

〇 2014: WHO declares the West African Ebola outbreak a PHEIC

Beginning in Guinea and lasting until 2016, the West African Ebola outbreak was the largest since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976.

〇 2016: WHO launches the WHO Health Emergencies Program

The program would streamline emergency responses to countries facing or recovering from emergencies.

〇 2016: WHO declares Zika-related microcephaly a PHEIC

Outbreaks of Zika virus were identified in much of the Americas and in other regions. WHO declared the end of the PHEIC in November that year.

〇 2019: WHO unveils “triple billion” targets

By 2023, WHO aims to achieve one billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage; one billion more better protected from health emergencies; and one billion more enjoying better health and wellbeing.

〇 2020: WHO declares the global outbreak of novel coronavirus a PHEIC

After cases were first reported by Chinese officials to WHO on December 31, 2019, COVID-19 quickly spread to every corner of the earth.

〇 2020: WHO and partners launch the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator

The ACT-Accelerator is a global collaboration designed accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

〇 2022: An Intergovernmental Negotiating Body begins to draft and negotiate a WHO convention on pandemic prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global process to draft and negotiate a pandemic accord was launched after a special session of the WHA, the second ever in WHO’s history.

〇 2022: A Review Committee and a Working Group on Amendments to the IHR begin work to update the IHR

Also spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, a process to modernize the IHR commences.