World yet not fully prepared for future pandemics: Gates Foundation President

Davos: Praising India and other countries for contributing to a global pandemic fund, a top official of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday said the world is yet not fully prepared to deal with any future pandemic and a lot more work needs to be done.

Speaking to PTI on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, where ‘Disease X’ is one of the key areas of discussions, Dr Christopher J Elias said we have learnt our lessons after Covid-19 but further efforts and discussions are needed, including on financing requirements.

“A really important discussion had started nearly eight years ago after the Ebola outbreak and that discussion cake into very clear focus after Covid-19 that the world needs to be better prepared,” he said.

“The world needs to be ready for infections and diseases that we know such as influenza but also diseases that we don’t know and may be new such as Disease X. But I don’t think we are fully prepared yet,” he added.

Elias noted that there have been a lot of talks on what needs to be done for the world to be fully prepared.

The WHO is in the process of negotiating an accord, trying to bring countries together on what needs to be done and how it is going to be financed, he said.

“We had a wake-up call from Covid-19 and we are relatively better prepared than we were four years ago but we are not fully prepared. There is a lot more work to be done and there is a lot more financing that needs to be arranged and those would be a lot more discussions over the course of next one year,” he said.

Talking about financing requirements Elias said that after the Covid-19, an IMF report suggested that we might need USD 10 billion a year to make sure that the entire world is adequately prepared for future pandemics.

“At Indonesian G20 two years ago, a pandemic fund was created and many nations of the world including India contributed to that fund. So, that’s a start and it has raised about USD 2 billion so far but obviously it’s not everything that is needed,” he said.

On the new annual budget of the Foundation, Elias said they are very excited that the board of trustees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has approved our largest budget ever of USD 8.6 billion for 2024.

“We think it’s really important that we are leading in helping to improve global health and development at a time when there is so much pressure on the resources around the world.

“This budget is about USD 1 billion higher than what was our budget in 2021. So we are increasing our budget significantly and we hope that many others also do so.

“Because this is the time when we have seen many successes in global health and a lot of opportunities are there for continued successes,” he added.

Asked about areas where these funding will go, Elias said there are many that the budget covers including finishing the job on polio eradication.

“India eradicated polio more than ten years ago but there are a few other places in the world where we have to finish the job and we are optimistic that in a year or two we will be able to eradicate polio from the world,” he said.

The foundation will also continue to work towards improving immunization and to reach those areas where people need the help the most are among our key priorities, he added.


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