As many experts have warned, unless the world gets serious about infectious diseases, we will all pay a hefty price in lives lost or severely diminished, economic costs, and social cohesion. And as we have acquired a sense of how damaging a pandemic can be as we continue to deal with COVID-19, prospects for new pandemic financing and renewed interest in One Health at the United Nations are welcome.
Since 2020 considerable global effort has been concentrated on COVID- 19 vaccines, treatment, and testing, and there are important successes. As I have mentioned before, much less effort has been made on pandemic preparedness measures, and still less on prevention.
That said, there is some indication the alarm has been heard and conceivably may mean heightened attention to the human/animal/environment interface, the “One Health” concept, which is essential if we are to avoid or better contain future infectious disease disasters
Among recent international multilateral events, two, in particular, give us hope: One concerns pandemic financing; the other is a high-level meeting at the UN focused on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response – and both reference One Health as the appropriate approach.
New pandemic financing initiative: Financial Intermediary Fund (IF PPR)
The first major multilateral “event” is the establishment of a new multi-donor engagement mechanism developed by the World Bank and the World Health Organization, namely the “Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response” (FIF PPR).
The new financial intermediary fund (FIF) for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (PPR) has been established.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 9, 2022
Launched with over $1 billion in commitments, its newly appointed Governing Board held its inaugural meeting on September 8/ 9, 2022, with the objective of defining investment priorities, who are eligible recipients and for what purposes. And how and by whom its performance will be measured.
A recent article in The Hill put this critical role in pandemic financing this way, highlighting how a One Health approach requires that all stakeholders, including multilateral agencies such as UNEP and the World Organization for Animal Health need to be involved if animal health and environmental issues are to be addressed:
“It [FIF PPR] must ensure that the animal health and environmental sectors are included as equal stakeholders alongside the public health sector. While the World Bank has made clear that the WHO will be heavily involved in the fund, there are no such commitments for other multilateral agencies (e.g., the UN Environment Programme, the World Organization for Animal Health) that have as much a role in pandemic prevention and preparedness.”
How FIF PPR performance will be monitored and evaluated, and by whom. will be an important determinant of success and need. an option is to utilize an existing such as the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board and expand its responsibilities to include “prevention”.
In the press release issued after the first board meeting ended on September 9, the Fund indicated it had received over $1.4 Billion in financial commitments and expected more in the coming months.
So far, commitments have been made by Australia, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Wellcome Trust.
And it announced that the first calls for proposals for investments to be funded by the FIF will open in November 2022.
A United Nations High-Level Meeting on Pandemics
The second major multilateral event is the United Nations General Assembly Resolution calling for the 78th UN General Assembly in 2023 to hold a special High-Level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Delegates to the 193-nation assembly overwhelmingly approved the resolution in a consensus vote on Friday with the backing of 12 sponsors and 117 cosponsors.
Excellent development: Today @UN MS resolved to hold a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness & response by Sept 2023.
— The Independent Panel (@TheIndPanel) September 2, 2022
The resolution states in a preambular paragraph the following (bolding highlights the reference to One Health):
“Recognizing the need to strengthen epidemic prevention by sharing experience and best practices, and to raise the level of preparedness, including early warning systems, in order to have the earliest and most adequate response to any epidemic that may arise, and recognizing also the value of an integrated One Health approach that fosters cooperation between the human health, animal health and plant health, as well as environmental and other relevant sectors,
1. Decides to hold a one-day high-level meeting, to be convened by the President of the General Assembly in collaboration with the World Health Organization, and at the level of Heads of State and Government […]”
The decision to hold a one-day high-level meeting, in collaboration with WHO, is planned to take place “no later than the last day of the general debate of the Assembly at its seventy-eighth session”.
The expected outcome of that meeting should be the adoption of “a succinct political declaration aimed at, inter alia, mobilizing political will at the national, regional and international levels for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”
As noted above, it is promising that One Health is mentioned and indeed, is fully described in the resolution; also that the FIF PPR includes “prevention” in its title.
In both cases WHO will have major responsibilities. We must look to it to fully and fairly engage the other crucial actors in designing, defining, and preventing future global infectious disease pandemics. At this point, there is cause for measured optimism.
Let’s hope our trust is verified by concrete actions.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Mountain tops, Alps, view from Tignes Source: Photo by Tiia Monto (taken 2015) cc license