Countries around the globe largely underprepared against pandemics

Created on Friday, 09 June 2017

 “Preparedness at a national level is the first line of defence, and thus the foundation of universal health security,” explained Peter Sands, former CEO of Standard Chartered Bank who now chairs the IWG and is a senior fellow at Harvard University. “Yet we have underinvested in the capabilities and infrastructure essential for preparedness,” he continued. “Given the scale of risk to human lives and livelihoods, the investment case for financing preparedness is compelling.”

As well as lost lives, the report pointed out that even a small pandemic can cause immense economic damage. The most conservative estimates put this as between 0.1-1% of global GDP, with some research suggesting the annual global cost of a moderately severe to severe pandemic being $570bn – 0.7% of global income.

Yet only 37 countries have made efforts to evaluate the gaps in their preparedness capacities, leaving 162 countries that have not. And of those 37, only two have used the results to devise costed plans of action. This is despite findings that investing in preparedness in low- and middle-income countries would cost around $1 per person per year.

The money would help prevent, detect and respond to the spread of disease in both humans and animals that have close contact with humans by increasing surveillance, establishing diagnostic laboratories and setting up emergency operations centres for early identification and containment.

The IWG’s report put forward 12 recommendations to increase preparedness, including: the development of costed action plans, supported by financing proposals and investment cases; reinforcing tax resources, including earmarked taxes, to finance preparedness; and ensuring donors fulfil their commitments, and focus their aid on large, one-off capital expenses that countries cannot afford.

Access the full report here.