Pandemic preparedness: Global spending needs 500 years to match COVID-19 rout

New report by WHO arm calls for robust global governance for preparedness to prevent the next pandemic

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 14 September 2020
‘It would take 500 years to spend as much on preparedness as the world is currently losing due to COVID-19’. Photo:

The world will take 500 years to spend on preparing for pandemics as much as the loss being driven by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a new report has flagged.

The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), which released the report on September 14, 2020, called for urgent action to break the cycle of panic and neglect that has characterised the response to global health crises in the past.

Releasing the report, titled A World in Disorder, GPMB called the response to the COVID-19 pandemic “a collective failure to take pandemic prevention, preparedness and response seriously and prioritise it accordingly.” The GPMB is the joint arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.

In many countries, leaders have struggled to take early decisive action based on science, evidence and best practice. This lack of accountability by leaders has led to a profound and deepening deficit in trust that is hampering response efforts, a WHO press statement said.

“The pandemic has shown the fragility of not only our health systems, but also our global economy. The impact of COVID-19 has been huge in the world and particularly in my region, the Americas, with a sharp increase in health, social and economic inequities,” Jeannette Vega, GPMB member and Chief Medical Innovation and Technology Officer, La Red de Salud UC-Christus, Chile, was quoted as saying in the press statement.

“Let’s hope that this time we finally learn the lesson and invest in preparedness and public goods for health to avoid similar tragedies in the future,” she added.

Last year, the GPMB had warned that the world was unprepared for the very real likelihood of a deadly pandemic spreading around the globe, killing millions of people, disrupting economies and destabilising national security, the statement noted.

“Transparency and accountability are essential in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Elhadj As Sy, co-Chair of the GPMB, was quoted as saying. “Trust is the foundation of government-community relationships for better health but that trust dissipates when governments and leaders do not deliver on their commitments,” he added.

Multilateral action 

While COVID-19 had demonstrated that the world was deeply interconnected through economics, trade, information and travel, one of the greatest challenges of the pandemic had been faltering multilateral cooperation, A World in Disorder noted.

Leadership by the G7, G20, and multilateral organisations had been hampered by geopolitical tensions.

The Board calls on leaders to renew their commitment to the multilateral system and strengthen WHO as an impartial and independent international organization. Weakening and undermining the multilateral action will have serious consequences on global health security, it warns. No one is safe until all are safe,” the WHO press statement read.

A World in Disorder called for responsible leadership, engaged citizenship, strong and agile systems for health security, sustained investment and robust global governance for preparedness in order to prevent the next pandemic.

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