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Posts Tagged ‘sendai’

There is a lot of talk about how to deal with the next pandemic. The consensus is that there is going to be a next pandemic; we do not know when, but we do know there is going to be one. So, are we ready for it?

If we believe the panellists on a recent webinar by The Economist, the answer is an unqualified no. Of all the possible explanations on why we are in such a situation of unpreparedness I subscribe that of Dr. John Nkengasong (Director of African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention): There is a deficit of “trust capital”.

The deficit exists among governments, and between governments and their citizens. Let’s start with lack of trust among governments. No one claims that a pandemic is not a world health problem. But if it is a global problem, why are we still ignoring the obvious fact that if we do not collaborate globally we are not going to solve “our” problem? A pandemic is not going to disappear until it has been eradicated from the most remote country. Trusting other governments means that part of our resources should be directed to other countries so that we can advance in unison.

As for the second aspect, the lack of trust between a government and its citizens, there are plenty of examples. Do we need to be reminded how some people stormed the USA Congress? What about those who refuse to be vaccinated because they believe in weird conspiracy theories? This aspect of lack of trust is as dangerous as the previous. Why? Because citizens are the first responders in a pandemic.

If we want to manage the next pandemic more efficiently, we need to involve first responders. A paper by Ying Yang et al[1] points out that “Epidemics start and end in communities, where citizens are often the first to observe changes in the environment and in animal health, and the first to be exposed to new or re-emerging pathogens”. We should follow the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 so as “… to promote a culture of disaster prevention, resilience and responsible citizenship, generate understanding of disaster risk …”. We should invest in educating citizens so that they can identify changes that foreshadow a possible pandemic. They are the cornerstone of a more efficient future preparation and response to the next pandemic.


[1] Ying Yang Chan E, Gobat N, Dubois C, Bedson J, Rangel de Almeida J. Bottom-up citizen engagement for health emergency and disaster risk management: directions since COVID-19. The Lancet Published Online June 4, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01233-2

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I have tried very hard not to write about the Covid-19 pandemic. Today I am giving up. I was going through some old documents about resilient societies and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 came to the fore. Page 11 of the framework says, “Integrate disaster risk reduction planning into the health sector; promote the goal of ‘hospitals safe from disaster’ … and implement mitigation measures to reinforce existing health facilities, particularly those providing primary health care.” Faced with the actual international response to the pandemic, my only possible reaction is an unmitigated cry of desperation.

It is obvious that only those countries in Asia that suffered the previous avian flu pandemic were ready for the new SARS‑CoV‑2 pandemic. As for Europe, nothing was prepared and nothing was done. Not even the most basic Individual Protection Equipment was available. The recommendations of the Hyogo Framework were ignored and the Sendai Framework, which covers 2015-2030, has been no more than another document to be shelved in the library.

I am not too convinced that, once this pandemic passes, the healthcare sector is going to focus on preparing for the next one. That will require thinking about the future and not being caught in the day-to-day business of caring for the immediate. For many years, due perhaps to budget restrictions or to lack of political willingness, healthcare has been losing ground in most countries. According to Eurostat “… 16 of the EU Member States reported a lower ratio of healthcare expenditure to GDP in 2017 than in 2012 …. In the Member States where the ratio was higher in 2017 than it had been in 2012, the increase was 0.6 percentage points or less, …”

It was with those resources that Europe’s healthcare had to face the pandemic. No wonder, according to Eurostat,  there have been 700, 000 additional deaths in the EU and EFTA countries between March 2020 and the end of February 2021, against the average number of deaths in the previous three years, of which 25%  were in the period from mid-March to end of May 2020.

But now the point is: will Europe learn and adequately resource healthcare for the future or will it keep driving with dipped headlights?

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