Not enough is being done to prepare internationally for pandemics, the World Health Organization warned at its 69th World Health Assembly.
In her remarks to the assembly, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, M.D., noted that despite progress on such diseases as malaria, polio and tuberculosis, recent outbreaks of Ebola, Zika and Middle East respiratory syndrome suggest the world is underprepared for such threats. Chan added that such threats, combined with the looming specter of climate change, must be among global health's top priorities.
Meanwhile, the WHO itself is coming up short on pandemic preparedness, and the World Bank may be better-equipped, according to a commentary from John A. Quelch of Harvard Business School. The WHO, Quelch writes, has failed to lead on the Zika or Ebola crises, and despite the quality work of its scientists, its bureaucratic structure has historically impeded meaningful action. He cites a recent report from the Commission on Global Health Risk Framework for the Future, which makes nearly 30 recommendations for the WHO to clarify its role, but which, he writes, "lack the specificity needed to be inspirational or actionable." The World Bank, in contrast to the WHO, has a far better track record of budget management and should assume command of the WHO's work on emergency preparedness, he writes.
The World Bank, meanwhile, has launched the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, an insurance market for pandemic risk. The organization created the fund in conjunction with private firms with the goal of tapping funds for low-income afflicted regions as quickly as possible, according to the article. "The Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone taught all of us that we must be much more vigilant to outbreaks and respond immediately to save lives and also to protect economic growth," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in an announcement.