New A World in Disorder report shows lessons learned from COVID-19

Sept. 15, 2020

On September 14, 2020, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) released its second report titled, A World in Disorder, which provides a harsh assessment of the global COVID-19 response, warning that the world cannot afford to be unprepared again when the next pandemic hits, reported the World Health Organization (WHO). 

In the report, the GPMB Board called for five urgent actions to be taken to bring order out of the catastrophe and chaos currently facing the world: responsible leadership; engaged citizenship; strong and agile systems for health security; sustained investment; and robust global governance of preparedness. 

Political leadership makes the difference. Effective leaders act decisively, on the basis of science, evidence and best practice, and in the interests of people. Emergency response is not a choice between protecting people and protecting the economy; public health action is the quickest way to end the threat and return to productivity and security. Preparedness is not only what governments do to protect their people, it is also what people do to protect each other. In the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment, individual behaviors have never been more important. 

Citizens can protect one another and demonstrate social and moral responsibility by acting in the best interests of all. The impact of pandemics goes far beyond their immediate health effects. In addition to its immediate death toll, COVID-19 will be remembered for its rapid global spread and devastating social and economic impact, especially for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. It has demonstrated the importance of protecting lives and livelihoods, and widening our understanding of preparedness to make education, social and economic sectors “pandemic proof”. 

Current measures of preparedness are not predictive. Our understanding of pandemic preparedness has been inadequate. National measures of preparedness have not predicted the effectiveness of countries’ response in stopping viral spread and saving lives, and the critical importance of social protection has been neglected. The ultimate test of preparedness is response. The return on investment for global health security is immense.

Expenditures for prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, the cost of a pandemic in trillions. It would take 500 years to spend as much on investing in preparedness as the world is losing due to COVID-19. Development assistance is an inadequate model for financing this investment; preparedness is the responsibility of all countries, and requires long-term, predictable, flexible and sustained financing on a much greater scale, based on global solidarity. 

Global health security cannot continue to rely on financing based on a small number of generous countries, foundations, and development banks. No one is safe until all are safe. Global preparedness is not simply the sum of national preparedness. A pandemic is, by definition, a global event and as such demands collective global action. The multilateral system exists to support that action. Where it is weak, it needs strengthening, not abandoning. The world of pandemic preparedness is already complex. It needs consolidation, not further fragmentation. 

Costs of COVID-19 Investments in preparedness include: 

• Over US$ 11 trillion, and counting, to fund the response

• Future loss of US$ 10 trillion in earnings

• Additional US$ 5 per person annually 

WHO has the report

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