Dr Noor Hisham heads new WHO committee on pandemic response

Dr Noor Hisham during the first meeting of the SCHEPPR held virtually on Dec 12.

KUALA LUMPUR: Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has been appointed chair of a new World Health Organization (WHO) standing committee on pandemic response.

He will be heading the Standing Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (SCHEPPR) for a term of between one and two years.

Dr Noor Hisham said the standing committee will meet at least twice annually, besides convening extraordinary meetings for urgent matters if necessary.

“The WHO’s 34-member Executive Board, during its annual meeting last May, agreed to form the SCHEPPR to help speed up its response to global health emergencies like Covid-19, after the United Nations health agency was criticised for being slow to respond to the pandemic when the coronavirus was first detected," he said in a statement.

According to the terms of reference, the standing committee shall provide guidance to the WHO executive board and advice to the WHO director-general on health emergency prevention, preparedness, and response, and immediate capacities of the WHO Emergencies Programme, in the event a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) is determined, he said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave his special thanks to Dr Noor Hisham and Prof Jérôme Salomon of France for agreeing to serve as the new committee’s first chair and vice-chair.

"As you all know, Covid-19 has revealed serious gaps in the world’s defences against epidemics, pandemics and other health emergencies.

"With urbanisation, habitat destruction, intensive agriculture and climate change, these risks are converging with unprecedented frequency and intensity.

"And we know that, unfortunately, this will not be the last pandemic, nor the large-scale health emergency.

“This standing committee is another part and a crucial part of the new architecture for health emergency preparedness and response that is now being constructed,” Tedros said in his opening remarks at the committee's first meeting held recently.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa also congratulated Dr Noor Hisham on his appointment as SCHEPPR chair.

"Thank you for bringing Malaysia's name to the world stage," she said in a Facebook post on Friday (Dec 23).

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