By Cynthia Ezekwe
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is collaborating with the European Union(EU) to launch a digital health initiative to protect global citizens from ongoing and future health threats.
WHO disclosed this recently in a live broadcast in Geneva, Switzerland, stating that it will adopt the EU system of digital Covid-19 certification to establish a global system that will aid in facilitating cross-border mobility and protect citizens worldwide from current and future health threats, including pandemics.
WHO said the milestone is its first building block on the Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) that will create a wide range of products to deliver better health for all, adding that digital COVID-19 certifications have been a crucial component of the EU’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
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WHO said that based on the EU Global Health Strategy and the WHO’s global strategy on digital health, the initiative follows the November 30, 2022 agreement by both parties to enhance strategic cooperation on global health issues which further boosts the multilateral system with WHO at its core, powered by a strong EU.
It said the EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate, also known as EU DCC, was developed to promote free movement inside its boundaries and link non-EU nations using open-source technology and standards and has since grown to be the most popular option globally.
WHO noted that with this partnership, it will facilitate the process globally under its structure to allow all to benefit from the convergence of the certificates which includes standard-setting and validation of digital signatures to prevent fraud.
It further said the landmark of the global WHO system will become operational in June 2023 to be progressively developed in the coming months, adding that the cooperation will ensure equitable opportunities for the participation of those most in need, especially low and middle-income countries.
Speaking on the digital health initiative, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, noted that the global health agency is building on the EU’s highly successful digital certificate network to offer all its member states access to an open-source digital health tool which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency, and data protection and privacy, adding that the new digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere in the world to receive quality health services quickly and more efficiently.
Also, Stella Kyriakide the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said the partnership between WHO and EU is a crucial step in implementing the EU’s digital action plan for global health strategy by utilizing its best practices to advance digital health standards and interoperability to benefit those most in need of it globally.
Furthermore, according to Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market, with 80 countries and territories linked to the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, the EU has established a global standard that has facilitated both international travel and tourism in addition to serving as a crucial tool in the fight against the pandemic.
“I am pleased that the WHO will build on the privacy-preserving principles and cutting-edge technology of the EU certificate to create a global tool against future pandemics,’’ he added.