11 July 2024

The coronavirus pandemic has reflected a broken world defined by inequality, division and a lack of accountability, causing a failure to put an end to the outbreak that so far killed more than 4.95 million people around the globe, a report by a World Health Organisation (WHO) panel says.

“If the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was defined by a collective failure to take preparedness seriously and act rapidly on the basis of science, the second has been marked by profound inequalities and a failure of leaders to understand our interconnectedness and act accordingly. What will the third year bring?” said Elhadj As Sy, Co-Chair at GPMB.

More than 1.5 million children around the world have lost a parent or a grandparent to COVID, Behind each death, there is a human story, a loss of potential, and an enormous gap left in a community. While this disaster should have brought us together, instead we are divided, fragmented and living in worlds apart, added As Sy.

While the speed of vaccine development is impressive, the access to vaccines depends on purchasing power rather than need, exposing a broken world where governments, leaders and institutions are too often unaccountable to their populations; and in which societies are fragmented, nationalism is growing, and geopolitical tensions are rising.

We must feel deep shame over multiple tragedies — vaccine hoarding, the devastating oxygen shortages in low-income countries, the generation of children deprived of education, the shattering of fragile economies and health systems,’ he said.

The lack of global equity is also caused by longstanding systemic inequities in the global health emergency ecosystem and the broader international system. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of global solidarity as being equivalent to goodwill and aid, rather than equity and common interest. Rich countries continue to offer aid via donations of medical countermeasures rather than supporting manufacturing capabilities, technology transfers, and fairer intellectual property provisions.

The GPMB report calls for a renewed global social contract for health emergencies that work collectively, across countries, sectors and communities. It also frames an action plan to help build a world prepared for future pandemics. The plan includes building a strong WHO with greater resources, authority, and accountability; creating an agile health emergency system that can deliver on equity; and establishing a collective financing mechanism for preparedness.

We must reject pessimism, recognize our common humanity and growing interdependence, and create a global health ecosystem that serves everyone,” As Sy said

Momentum is building around the need for stronger governance, effective systems, and sustainable financing for pandemic preparedness and response. Current processes to reform the health emergency ecosystem, such as the working groups established by the World Health Assembly, the G20 under the leadership of the Italian presidency, and a consortium of countries and international organizations and institutions led by the USA and Norway, need to ensure they include the countries, communities and sectors that are expected to contribute to and benefit from these solutions in their discussions.

“It is easy to be cynical and think that nothing can change, that inequality, inaction, and division are unavoidable, that the models of the past cannot be exchanged for better ways of working together that benefit all, that we are forever condemned to repeat this cycle of panic and neglect. But we must reject pessimism, recognize our common humanity and growing interdependence, and create a global health ecosystem that serves everyone. Together we must move from worlds apart to a world prepared,” said As Sy.