MSF welcomes World Health Assembly resolution on disease testing

Governments must now implement the resolution and make sure diagnostic tools are widely affordable and accessible

Ebola response in Mangina

Democratic Republic of Congo 2018 © Carl Theunis/MSF

NEW YORK/GENEVA, MAY 26, 2023—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes today’s passage of a resolution at the 76th annual United Nations World Health Assembly to strengthen countries’ diagnostic testing capacity. With almost half of the global population having little or no access to disease testing, this resolution is an essential step towards improving global access to diagnostic tools, said MSF. Increasing access to testing for a variety of diseases is critical as it is necessary in order to put people on the best medical treatments possible.

The resolution was proposed by Indonesia and governments in Africa. Now all countries must immediately take the required steps to implement the resolution, including ensuring that essential diagnostic tools and tests—like those for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS—are affordable and accessible nationwide. One way to do this is by supporting the 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, said today:

“Timely access to the right testing tools is one of the most critical parts of any medical intervention to curb an outbreak and save lives. It’s encouraging to see access to testing being discussed at 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 that are adapted for the remote, emergency situations we work in. So, we end up sending samples to faraway laboratories—if there are any—which can mean weeks or months of waiting before getting results. Delays like this can mean delayed responses to outbreaks and lives being unnecessarily lost. This is unacceptable.

“The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way; the COVID-19 pandemic showed us that rapid, easy-to-use diagnostic tests can be abundantly available, as they were to wealthy countries at the front of the queue.

“We urge all governments to make sure everyone has access to lifesaving tests by swiftly adopting World Health Organization guidelines into their national policies, developing national essential diagnostics lists, and ensuring nationwide access to essential tests for all diseases relevant to the local context—including neglected diseases—and beyond pandemics alone.”

Stijn Deborggraeve, diagnostics advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said today:

“We welcome this important resolution to strengthen diagnostics 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 testing by ensuring that quality-assured tests are affordable, and by supporting the local production of diagnostic tools, especially in LMICs.

“Every day we see test shortages in the countries where we work, so it’s clear that relying on a few multinational diagnostics corporations to meet local health needs is not working. We need more successful collaborations between local test manufacturers and governments, like Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos, which produces testing tools at non-profit prices to address local health needs. If we hope to improve access to testing for diseases that mainly affect people in LMICs, local production in these countries is key.”