Elhadj As Sy, Co-chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board and Former Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, emphasises the devastating potential – and inevitability – of pandemics. He calls on international organisations and governments to engage more effectively at a local level to ensure preparedness is prioritised and communities are protected.
“We must hold ourselves accountable, learn from and not repeat past lessons and take real action to ensure that preparedness is prioritised and so communities are protected.”
In September 2019, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, which I co-chair with Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, published its First Annual Report on the state of the world’s preparedness for health emergencies. In the report we said:
“If it is true to say ‘what’s past is prologue’, then there is a very real threat of a rapidly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen killing 50 to 80 million people and wiping out nearly five per cent of the world’s economy. A global pandemic on that scale would be catastrophic, creating widespread havoc, instability and insecurity. The world is not prepared.”
The latest novel coronavirus outbreak is a stark reminder of emerging, pandemic-potential risks – as we noted in our report it is ‘not if, but when.’ At the time of writing, this outbreak has spread to at least 25 countries and killed more than 1,000 people in the space of several weeks. More needs to be learned about this virus, but it should be taken seriously…
Elhadj As Sy
Co-chair, Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, and Former Secretary General, IFRC