Advocacy Update ~ May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

World Health Assembly

GHC and our delegation submitted a statement to the World Health Organization (WHO) for the World Health Assembly (WHA73), which took place on Monday, May 18 and Tuesday, May 19, 2020 using video conference technology. The assembly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as items essential for governance business continuity. The bulk of the original agenda will be considered later in the year. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros AdhanomGhebreyesus’ address highlighted the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to health systems by threatening to unwind decades of progress against maternal and child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, polio, and many other of the most urgent health threats. Dr. Tedros also announced that he will initiate an independent evaluation to review and make recommendations based on the WHO’s response to the pandemic. He called for mutual ownership and accountability of Member States and the need for solidarity to ensure transparency, responsiveness, and a healthier, safer, and fairer world.

GHC welcomed the comprehensive resolution adopted by the Assembly to address COVID-19. The resolution was widely supported and was adopted with no objections.We look forward to continuing our work with advocates and governments around the world to take the recommendations within the resolution and weave them into national COVID-19 response plans.

The GHC delegation included more than 35 individuals from more than 7 different countries. The delegation was invited to submit a statement for the record about the COVID-19 response. The statement highlighted the need for health systems strengthening and solidarity in challenging times. You can find GHC’s statement here.

President Trump sent a letter to WHO last week calling for accountability, and warning that if reforms were not made, that the United States would withdraw from the organization entirely. The letter itself acknowledges that WHO is already in communication with the Trump Administration about opportunities for reform.GHC is in frequent contact with advocates and the administration about the parameters and implications of such a decision. We will continue to express to the White House and to Congress the value and importance of the World Health Organization during a pandemic.

Congressional Update

The House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on May 15, 2020. The HEROES Act passed 208-199. The bill aims to continue the U.S. domestic response to COVID-19 by providing emergency supplemental funding to federal agencies; payments to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as direct payments of up to $1,200 to individuals; expanded family and medical leave; unemployment compensation; and nutrition and food assistance. Additionally, it expands the Paycheck Protection Program. It did not include funding for global health accounts. Senate leadership has stated that they are unlikely to consider a bill at this time. GHC is eager to continue working with both Senate and House staff to address the global health response and the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on major U.S. global health initiatives.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Protecting Scientific Integrity in the COVID-19 Response.” Witnesses included Dr. Richard Bright, Senior Advisor, National Institutes of Health and Mike Bowen, Executive Vice President, Prestige Ameritech.

The deadline for outside witness testimony for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) is due June 8. Instructions to submit testimony can be found here. The deadline for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) was May 22. GHC has submitted testimony for LHHS and will submit for SFOPs before the deadline. The testimony will reflect the House testimony from earlier in the year in addition to the request that was sent to the Office of Management and Budget. It will also address the ongoing needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing recently on “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.” witnesses included Dr. Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on the quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress. The Honorable Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, and the Honorable Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System were witnesses. Members and witnesses discussed reopening states.