Governments should now implement the resolution to achieve the goal of improving access to testing for all people
26 May 2023 – Governments today adopted a resolution at the 76th annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to strengthen countries’ diagnostic testing capacity. The resolution was proposed by Indonesia and the governments of the African region. With nearly half of the global population having little or no access to testing, MSF/Médecins Sans Frontières (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 key diagnostic tools and tests are affordable and available throughout the country, and support local production of diagnostic tools and tests in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Dr. Salha Issoufou, Director of Operations for MSF West and Central Africa:
“Ignorance is not bliss when you’re dealing with disease outbreaks: timely access to the right testing tools is one of the most critical parts of any medical intervention to slow an outbreak and save lives, so it’s encouraging to see access to test be discussed on a global level.
“We are often faced with an absence or limited availability of tests, as there are often simply no tests on the market adapted to the remote, emergency situations we work in. So we end up sending samples to remote laboratories if there are some, which can mean weeks or months of waiting before you get results. Delays like this can mean delayed responses to outbreaks and unnecessary loss of life, and that is unacceptable. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way: the COVID pandemic showed us that rapid, easy-to-use diagnostic tests can be abundantly available, just as they were for wealthy countries at the front of the queue. We know that it is possible to make tests available and accessible. There should be no double standard in access to life-saving medical tests.
“We urge all governments to ensure that everyone has access to life-saving tests by rapidly adopting WHO guidelines into national policies, developing national essential diagnostic lists (EDLs) and ensuring nationwide access to essential tests for all diseases that are relevant for the local context, including neglected diseases and beyond pandemics alone.”
Stijn Deborggraeve, Diagnostics Advisor, MSF Access Campaign:
“We welcome this important decision to strengthen diagnostic capacity, but it must not remain just ink on paper. To make it a reality for everyone, everywhere, we urge all governments to implement the resolution and improve access to diagnostic tests by ensuring that quality-assured tests are affordable and by supporting the local production of diagnostic tools, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
“Every day we see test shortages in the countries where we work, so it’s clear that relying on a few multinational diagnostic companies to meet local health needs is not working. We need more successful collaborations between local test manufacturers and governments, such as Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos, which produces testing tools at non-profit prices to meet local health needs.Because if we hope to improve access to testing for diseases that mainly affect people in low- and middle-income countries, local production in these countries the key.”
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