GENEVA: Despite three “brutal” years of the Covid-19 pandemic, all countries remain “dangerously unprepared” for the next pandemic. The Red Cross noting strong preparedness systems as “severely lacking” says the future health crises could also likely collide with increasingly climate-related disasters.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which is world’s largest humanitarian network, said building trust, equity and local action networks were vital to get ready for the next crisis as all countries remain dangerously unprepared for future outbreaks. It concluded that governments were no more ready now than in 2019.
It said countries needed to be prepared for “multiple hazards, not just one”. It noted societies only became truly resilient through planning for different types of disaster, as they can occur simultaneously.
The IFRC also pointed the rise in climate-related disasters and frequent waves of disease outbreaks during this century. Covid-19 was just one. It said extreme weather events were also growing more frequent and intense. Where our ability to merely respond to them is limited”.
The IFRC issued two reports making recommendations on mitigating future tragedies on the scale of Covid-19, on the third anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring the virus an international public health emergency.
“The Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the global community to prepare now for the next health crisis,” said IFRC secretary general Jagan Chapagain.
“The next pandemic could be just around the corner; if the experience of Covid-19 won’t quicken our steps toward preparedness, what will?” The report said major hazards harm those who are already vulnerable the most, and leaving the poorest exposed was “self-defeating”, as a disease can return in a more dangerous form.
if Public trust’s fragile, public health becomes political
The IFRC said if people trusted safety messages, they would be willing to comply with public health measures and accept vaccination. But the organisation said crisis responders “cannot wait until the next time to build trust”, urging consistent cultivation over time.
The IFRC said if trust was fragile, public health became political and individualized — something which impaired the Covid response.
The coronavirus pandemic had thrived on and exacerbated inequalities. Poor sanitation, overcrowding, lack of access to health and social services, and malnutrition created conditions for diseases to thrive in.
“The world must address inequitable health and socio-economic vulnerabilities far in advance of the next crisis,” it recommended.
Affordable Pandemic Response Products
The organization urged local communities should be leveraged to perform life-saving work, as that is where pandemics begin and end. The IFRC called for the development of pandemic response products that are cheaper, and easier to store and administer.
By 2025, it said countries should increase domestic health finance by one percent of gross domestic product, and global health finance by at least $15 billion per year.
The IFRC said its network had reached more than 1.1 billion people over the past three years to help keep them safe during the Covid pandemic.