The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns the world is dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic and this will have severe health, economic and social consequences for countries around the world. The IFRC has just released this year’s World Disaster Report.
In a marked departure from previous reports, the IFRC does not delve into the numerous natural disasters that caused untold devastation last year. It does not rank the severity of disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and drought in terms of deaths and the destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure.
Instead, the report focuses on the global crisis unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic and on warnings of worse calamities to come if the global community does not prepare now for the next health crisis.
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said the authors of the report conclude the coronavirus pandemic has been the biggest disaster in our living memory, by any measure.
“I think no other disasters, the hurricane, earthquake, drought, or flood can compete in terms of the terrible human and socio-economic costs. Of course, the most conservative estimates tell us that 6.5 million people died from COVID-19 across these three years. But we all know that the real number could be much, much higher,” said Chapagain.
And the financial costs, he said, are staggering. He said the International Monetary Fund estimates the cost of the pandemic over the last three years to be $13.8 trillion.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the global community to prepare now for the next health crisis. He notes the World Health Organization and multiple epidemiologists have warned disease outbreaks are growing more frequent.
Chapagain said these outbreaks are being driven by factors such as climate change, increased movement of goods and services, urbanization, as well as growing inequity. He said success in tackling future health crises depends upon building trust among world leaders, within and between communities and countries.
“Without trust, lifesaving pandemic counter measures will not be accepted and implemented by the people who need them most. Preparedness will require equity. Our preparedness must include provisions for greater equity because public health emergencies will thrive on and aggravate existing inequities,” he said.
Chapagain said community-based organizations are an integral part of pandemic preparedness and response. He said local actors and communities have important roles to play as frontline responders in all phases of disease outbreak management.
He notes IFRC staff, and its global network of volunteers have reached more than 1.1 billion people over the past three years and helped to keep them safe from the virus.