Monkeypox: From Neglect & Endemicity to PHEIC, Beyond Legal Characterizations.

By Axelle Ebode

Monkeypox has never been classified among Neglected Tropical Diseases, but the way it has been managed is a case of neglect.

As on August 17 2022, a total of 37,736 laboratory confirmed cases and 179, including 12 deaths have been reported to WHO by 93 countries across the world. Never before did monkeypox cases reach such numbers. Despite the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the Director-General of WHO on 23rd July, 2022, the operationalisation of the response to this outbreak does not seem to be up to expectations, at least for the moment. Beyond the legal and juridical classification, what does this say about the  relationship of the International Health Regulations (2005) with endemicity?  What has this classification really changed in practice?

Unlike ever before, the cases of monkeypox have been numerous and scattered across the globe. By declaring this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the WHO DG took on responsibility in the face of a non-consensual IHR emergency committee. Beyond the legal, ethical and political debates generated by this decision, it is important to analyze what this tells us about the applicability of the IHR (2005) on a multilateral scale when facing the expansion of  an endemic disease.

Image Credit: Photo by Alex Conchillos from Pexels

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