World Bank says nations ill-prepared to battle pandemic diseases

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The World Bank said on Thursday that nations are failing to invest enough money to prevent the potential global spread of disease that could kill millions of people and cripple economies.

The World Bank
The World Bank

The bank in a report on Thursday said, faced with a pandemic, an unprepared planet could lose billions to trillions of dollars, a significant chunk of the global gross domestic product.

Yet, containing pandemics, diseases that spread globally, compared with epidemics that are localised, would cost about one dollar per person per year in investment, the bank said.

“Given the scale of risk to human lives and livelihoods, the investment case for financing preparedness is compelling,” said Peter Sands, chairman of the bank’s Working Group on Financing Preparedness which wrote the report.

“We must make it happen,” he said.

The bank said recent pandemics include the Zika virus, an infectious disease linked to severe birth defects in babies, and the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

The devastating effects of a pandemic were illustrated as well during the Ebola outbreak that swept West Africa and killed more than 11,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

To determine that most of the world falls short in terms of pandemic preparedness the World Bank assessed countries on a stress test of measures in place.

The Washington-based organisation said of 37 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America put through the test, most were graded with a red or yellow light, meaning progress remains to be made.

With disease outbreaks becoming increasingly frequent, the Bank called on its 189-member countries to step up investments in disease surveillance systems, laboratories and emergency operations centres.

“We have to ensure we are prepared, so the next outbreak does not become the next pandemic,” said Jim Yong Kim, who is the Bank’s president, in a statement.

Ebola resurfaced earlier this month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the eight time, killing four people according to the World Health Organisation.


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