The world was woefully unprepared for a pandemic. Let’s be ready for the next one | Elhadj As Sy

Three months prior to coronavirus's emergence, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, (GPMB), warned the international community that a pandemic would soon be a reality and that no one was prepared. We were proven wrong, tragically.
Twenty-months of Covid-19 have seen nearly five million deaths directly attributed to the disease and severe economic damage. We are now able to say that the world is still not ready. It is not equipped to stop the current pandemic or prevent it from happening in the future.

This pandemic's catastrophic failures should not surprise us. These failures are the result of a long history in inequality and inaction. We must feel shame for the many tragedies that have rocked our lives. We should be sad and angry. It is not normal or acceptable to cause millions of deaths that could have been prevented.

Covid exposed a world where there are haves and have nots. Access to vaccines, treatment and PPE is dependent on your ability and willingness to pay. It is the inequalities of vaccines that most shatters our moral fiber and proves that this pandemic has ended up being a shared problem. The distribution rates of vaccines almost match income distribution.

Global equity is partly due to the fundamental misunderstanding of global solidarity as a foundation on generosity and not justice. It can also be caused by systemic inequalities in the global system and wider international system.

Finance for health emergency response and preparedness is largely based on bilateral, multilateral and ad-hoc development assistance. These countries, which are low- and middle-income, are often underrepresented. Additionally, there are few opportunities to engage communities or civil society, which further marginalizes vulnerable groups.

Covid created a world marked by increased nationalism, distrust, and inequality. These trends have only been accelerated by Covid. The top is where the inadequacies begin. The UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, World Health Assembly and G7 leaders, among others, have nothing to show for their efforts beyond declarations of intention.

Worse, the only way to contain the pandemic or prepare for it is to take collective action. However, the current reforms of the emergency health system are fragmented and could lead to further fragmentation.

We need a strong WHO that is empowered and has the resources and authority to make this ecosystem work.

It has provided an opportunity, despite all the challenges of pandemics. It has provided us with an opportunity to recognize the lifesaving and inspiring role science can play in mitigating deadly diseases. We've seen how people can be supportive, kind and solidarious with one another. We also agreed that fundamental reforms are needed in the global emergency system for health.

Preparation starts in communities and in countries. Each country is responsible for protecting its own citizens. Each country must fulfill the promises it made to its citizens. Each country has the ability and obligation to do more. Global preparedness goes beyond the sum of individual preparedness. It requires concerted, collective, and coordinated action. A new global social contract must be at the heart of it. It should prioritize equity, accountability and solidarity as well as reciprocity, inclusion, and reciprocity.

The GPMB's new report calls for greater political leadership and accountability in order to improve the international community's ability to prepare for future emergencies. We call on all countries, including those in the global south, to join forces with civil society, the public sector, and other stakeholders to urgently strengthen the ecosystem for pandemic preparedness, response, and negotiate an international agreement at WHO. We need a strong WHO with authority and resources to be the core of this ecosystem.

Independent monitoring is also important in holding our leaders, governments, and institutions accountable. These actions together will create a cohesive plan for global monitoring and preparedness. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and work together to create solutions that are fair and inclusive.

The window of opportunity to make positive changes is rapidly closing. The urgency is diminishing as life in certain parts of the globe returns back to normal and the world's attention is diverted elsewhere.

We know what to do. There have been many recommendations to reform the system. It is just not possible. We must do it. We've learned hard lessons about the fact that disease has no borders. Until all of us are safe, none of us can be considered safe. It is time to move beyond words and into action.