We Must Do Better, Covid-19 Panel Tells United Nations

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed two critical areas in which the world needs to do far more to bolster global health security: strengthening and sharing. Addressing a session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, World Health Emergencies Programme (speaking on behalf of Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) said: "Pandemics start and end in communities. All our work to prevent future pandemics must start locally, by strengthening public health surveillance and systems that can detect and contain diseases at source, stronger primary health care systems that can save lives, and bolstering community engagement and participation through stronger social safety nets. That must be our first priority."

Dr Ryan said that the world also needed to "strengthen preparedness and response capacities at the global level: the systems, mechanisms, tools and networks that must be put in place to help prevent, detect and respond rapidly to future pandemics".

The July 29, 2021 informal plenary meeting was convened so that the UNGA could be briefed on the findings and recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), whose report was presented to the World Health Assembly in May 2021. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, are co-chairs of the panel, which made a sweeping set of recommendations designed to ensure that no future disease outbreak is allowed to become a devastating pandemic.

Speaking at the July briefing, Sirleaf said that the current pandemic is an ongoing disaster which the IPPPR believes could have been averted. "The General Assembly has a decisive role to play in backing the needed reforms, strengthening the multilateral infrastructure so that it can identify and respond more quickly to the next virus with pandemic potential," she said. Clark noted that the panel had found that geopolitical tensions and nationalism had weakened the multilateral system which was designed to keep the world safe.

Reflecting on her experience as President of Liberia, Sirleaf said: "It fell on me to lead our population through the devastating experience of the Ebola epidemic and the hard-won recovery from it. I speak with conviction when I say that this current pandemic must be the last to cause devastation to human life, societies, and economies. As a world, we must do better."

InFocus

A solidarity flight from Addis Ababa to Brazzaville delivers supplies for the flight against Covid-19.

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