In 2005 after the SARS epidemic, 196 countries signed on to the International Health Regulations (IHR). It laid out a set of goals to ensure countries were prepared to detect and respond to public health events.
But today, no country is fully compliant.
On average, low-income countries score lowest in their capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks, according to the Global Health Security Index, which measures the health security and capabilities of countries that signed on to the IHR. But the problem is global: high-income countries only score on average 50 out of 100.
Here are some key facts to know about the state of global pandemic preparedness.
- The gap in preparedness financing for low- and lower-middle income countries is estimated to be US$4.5 billion per year.
- The world has poured US$5 trillion (so far!) into the COVID-19 response. That’s 500 times the cost of investing in pandemic preparedness.
- In March, the US approved a US$2 trillion stimulus package. This funding in the US alone is greater than the GDP of all of sub-Saharan Africa.
- An emergency economic stimulus of US$100 billion for African governments would be equivalent to just 2% of the G20’s proposed US$5 trillion stimulus package.
- Half of the world’s ventilator producers are in the EU.
- Mali has only one ventilator per 6.5 million people.
- African nations import 70-90% of their total drugs consumed, which is problematic as countries begin imposing restrictions on medical supply exports.
- A team of researchers in Senegal has begun validation trials on an at-home diagnostic test that can produce results in as little as 10 minutes — all for US$1.
- Rich countries spend 162 times more on healthcare than low-income countries.
- Women are at the frontline of the response: female health workers make up 67% of the health workforce in 104 countries.
- During the 2019 Ebola outbreak in DRC, 2.5 times more people died of measles than Ebola. This was due to disruptions in primary health care and routine immunisation.
We need high-level political leadership and increased investments in health systems to meet the urgent COVID-19 preparation and detection needs — and to address critical preparedness gaps for the next pandemic.