World unprepared for global pandemic that can kill millions of people, WHO report

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Representation of world's countries NASA/GSFC/SVS

The world is unprepared for a "very real threat" of a highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen that may kill about 50 to 80 million people across the globe and wipe out nearly five percent of the world's economy, a report by WHO panel convened in the wake of 2014- 2016 Ebola epidemic suggested.

The global pandemic, which is going to be catastrophic, create widespread havoc, instability, and insecurity, will hit lower-resourced communities much harder due to lack of access to basic health services, clean water, and sanitation, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) said, urging a political action to prepare for and mitigate the effects of global health emergencies.

The GPMB, co-convened in May 2018 by the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization, called for urgent actions to prepare the world for the pandemic, including developing a costed National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS), prioritize community involvement in all preparedness efforts, preparing donors and multilateral institutions in advance, and the strengthening of coordination mechanism by the United Nations and affiliated agencies.

Highlighting that the WHO between 2011 and 2018 tracked 1483 epidemic events in 172 countries, including influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Zika, plague, and yellow fever, the report said the vulnerability of the global health emergencies had been heightened by an increase in disease outbreaks, population growth, increased urbanization, a globally integrated economy, widespread and faster travel, conflict, migration and climate change, with poor people and global economy at an increased risk.

"For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides. It is well past time to act," the report said, referring to the 1918 global influenza pandemic that sickened one-third of the world population and killed as many as 50 million people -- 2.8 percent of the total population.

If such a health emergency struck today, it could perish about 50 to 80 million people and cause panic, destabilize national security and seriously impact the global economy and trade, it said.

The report suggested that governments must commit themselves to preparedness by implementing their binding obligations under the International Health Regulations (2005), prioritize and dedicate domestic resources for national and global security, universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and build an effective coordination mechanism to tackle a future health emergency.

"The world is at risk. But, collectively, we already have the tools to save ourselves and our economies. What we need is leadership and the willingness to act forcefully and effectively," it said, pushing for worldwide preparedness.