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GPMB report highlights weaknesses in pandemic preparedness and highlights lessons learned so far from COVID-19

In a new report, ‘A World in Disorder’, published by the World Health Organization, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) provides an assessment of pre-COVID pandemic planning, highlights lessons learned, and makes recommendations for improvements for future pandemic preparedness.

GPMB is an independent monitoring and accountability body which prepares for global health crises. In 2019 the organization warned that the world was unprepared for the ‘very real threat of ‘a rapidly spreading pandemic due to a lethal respiratory pathogen’ and called for urgent action.

In A World in Disorder, GPMB highlights pandemic preparedness failures, saying it would take 500 years to spend as much on preparedness to equal what COVID-19 is currently costing the world. The report says that global COVID-19 response has been “a collective failure to take pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response seriously and prioritize it accordingly”.

Lessons learned from COVID-19

A World in Disorder summarises the lessons learned from COVID-19 as follows:

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 behaviours 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. 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.

The report calls for urgent actions to strengthen the current response to COVID-19 and better prepare the world for future pandemics and health emergencies; to bring order out of catastrophe and chaos. This include:

  • Responsible leadership
  • Strong and agile national and global systems for global health security
  • Engaged citizenship
  • Sustained investment in prevention and preparedness, commensurate with the scale of a pandemic threat
  • Robust global governance of preparedness for health emergencies.

Read the report (PDF).



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