Infectious disease outbreak response: Mind the rights gap
The international organization responsible for international coordinated response to disease outbreaks—the World Health Organization (WHO)—was given permission to receive reports from sources other than the state in revisions to the International Health Regulations (IHR) in 2005. However, the organization struggles to protect its corresponding right to receive reports from non-state actors on outbreak events. This article examines the consequences of this implementation gap between what is stated in the IHR—the right of WHO to receive reports from non-state actors on outbreak events—and the reality that states remain able and willing to act to ensure that this right is not exercised. The article examines two recent cases: the first detection of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in Saudi Arabia, and the first months of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. Both cases demonstrate how the WHO has struggled to balance states’ concern with managing risk communication against WHO’s right to receive reports from non-state actors. The article argues that to realize the full potential of a transparent disease outbreak reporting process, there is a need for a human rights framework that expressly articulates its right to receive reports and outlines appropriate behaviour for the WHO, states, and non-state actors.
Medical Law Review
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