A panel from the United Nations is looking at how to hold accountable governments that fail to enforce public health rules, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

At a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, said public health failings may be traced "back to governments."

If nations had agreed to abide by international health regulations, Chan explained, they must respect what they have signed up for. Failure to do so would pose hazards not only to their citizens but also to those of neighboring countries.

High-Level Panel

Chan said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has initiated a global health crisis review, which plans to devise ways to make non-abiding countries responsible.

"As part of the Secretary-General's high-level panel, I'm sure they will come up with some kind of mechanism to address governments that ignore their duty and responsibility and yet pose a threat to others," Chan stated.

'Walk the Talk'

In the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, poor health care delivery systems are seen as a major factor in the crisis.

Chan added that, with the weak standards of health care in South Korea and Saudi Arabia, the spread of the fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) has also accelerated.

A 2011 H1N1 influenza pandemic report revealed similar findings as to what went wrong. The results showed that the world was not equipped to handle the outbreak.

"At that time member states rejected to fund the recommendations," said Chan, encouraging nations to "walk the talk."

Chan urged governments to aid their citizens in becoming healthy, and roll back the prices of drugs to make medical treatments affordable. She recommended a reform on drug costs.


One example of how nations can work together to fight major diseases is the possible collaboration between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The two countries are looking into developing vaccine against MERS in preparation for another probable outbreak.

Chan noted on Oct. 20 that talks are being held between Khaled al-Falih, Saudi's minister of health, and his counterparts in the U.S. government.

"We're making baby steps," Chan remarked.

No vaccine against MERS has yet been licensed. The virus has killed almost 600 patients out of more than 1,500 cases recorded since 2012.

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