Advocating for Health Security: International Day of Epidemic Preparedness
As COVID-19 rages across China, bringing with it the potential for further mutations and another global wave of disease, the international community again must remember the devastation to lives and livelihoods that the disease has left in its wake. December 27, the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, presents an annual opportunity to take stock and to rededicate ourselves to local, national, and international work to confront not only this pandemic, but ones yet to emerge.
As we move forward in a world fortified by new vaccines, therapeutics and treatment protocols for COVID-19, we must remember what it cost to get here, and maintain epidemic preparedness as a top global priority with advocacy to sustain political will.
As U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stated: “Infectious diseases remain a clear and present danger to every country… [a]n outbreak anywhere is a potential pandemic everywhere.” Particularly as it is likely that zoonotic diseases – such as COVID-19 – will increase in prevalence with climate change and habitat encroachment, the world must make the sound investment now to prepare for and prevent future global health crises. As we learned from COVID-19, even epidemics with a relatively low overall mortality rate can overwhelm health systems, damage economies and vital supply chains and delay education. And each of these effects disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Central to epidemic preparedness is sustained political will. In 2018, through the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI) Prevent Epidemics program, we began work in partnership with local civil society organizations to raise public awareness and political commitment for epidemic preparedness funding through country-led advocacy focused on domestic resource mobilization.
We are proud to work with local partners to advocate for accountable, technically sound country-level mechanisms to channel resources for epidemic preparedness. If the last few years have taught us anything, epidemic preparedness must be built between crises to bend the arc of an outbreak to containment before reaching pandemic proportions.
Earlier this month, GHAI launched a new learning resource, the Budget Advocacy Toolkit for Epidemic Preparedness, at an official side event to the Second International Conference on Public Health in Africa. Cosponsored by Resolve to Save Lives, the event brought together partners from GHAI’s Prevent Epidemics program to discuss successful advocacy strategies to build political will and public support for epidemic preparedness funding in Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana. GHAI’s four step advocacy approach outlined in the toolkit: campaign planning, campaign implementation, budget accountability and budget sustainability is available at budgetadvocacy.org.
Globally, we must work together to prevent future epidemics to protect all people and ensure that the “new normal” is one that advances epidemic preparedness and global health security.
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