Catholic Doctors in Kenya Want WHO Assembly to “explicitly reject” Proposed Regulations

Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Credit: WHO

Members of the Kenya Catholic Doctors’ Association (KCDA) are asking the country’s Attorney General (AG) to advise Kenya’s representative at the ongoing Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly to “explicitly reject” the proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR).

The U.S. has proposed that the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) be given the power to unilaterally declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) even when the country dealing with a disease outbreak objects.

In their Wednesday, May 25 petition published online, KCDA members say they “would like to bring to the attention of all Kenyans the danger posed to our country by the United States’ proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of World Health Organization (WHO) that will be discussed during the ongoing 75th World Health Assembly that stated on 22nd and is due to end on 28th May.”

While the current IHR that was adopted in 2005 respects the sovereignty of member nations, Catholic Doctors in Kenya are concerned about the proposed amendments that they say seek to “expand WHO’s authority to implement global health mandates on member states in direct violation of national sovereignty and citizens’ rights.”

The proposed amendments, KCDA members say, “would also give the WHO unilateral power in assessing and determining a health emergency thus empowering the WHO to dictate policy and response of member nations.”


They regret the fact that the proposed amendments deny the member nations “a mechanism for checks and balances for such unfettered power” that the proposal gives to WHO.

“Second, and most importantly, in health matters which are largely contextual to a given member nation and its people, a member nation is denied any opportunity to address such health matters,” Catholic doctors in Kenya say in their online petition.

They explain, “A member nation which is given powers by its citizens to make any determination on health matters would essentially surrender the power to WHO! This in turn negates the principals of sovereignty which is fundamental and foundational for the existence of a member nation.”

“We kindly request you (AG) to guide the Kenyan Government representative to the 75th World Health Assembly of WHO to explicitly reject the proposed amendments to the IHR to avoid scandal or unnecessary legal tussle,” KCDA members say in their May 25 petition.

They further say the proposed IHR amendments are not only “offensive” to the 2010 Constitution of Kenya (COK 2010) but also “against the interest of the people of Kenya.”

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If accepted, these legally binding amendments would come into effect for all member states except those that explicitly reject them,” Catholic doctors in Kenya say, and add, “Under Article 59 of the IHR, de facto approval is assumed for any member states that fail to reject or take reservation to the amendments.”

In their considered opinion, KCDA members say that “the proposed changes are offensive to the COK 2010 and against the interest of the people of Kenya. We strongly oppose the proposed amendments and instead stands in support of all people’s right to health sovereignty and self-determination.”

In the petition seeking signatures from Kenyans, the Catholic Doctors say that Kenya’s representative at the World Health Assembly “should be encouraged to actively engage other member states of WHO, especially the African delegates, to also reject the proposed amendments.”

“We kindly request our fellow Kenyans and all people of good will to join us in demanding that the Attorney General of Kenya guides the Kenyan Government representative to the 75th World Health Assembly of WHO,” KCDA members appeal in their May 25 petition.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.