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Nations failing to invest in prevention of pandemics: report

25 May 2017

The World Bank said today that nations were failing to invest enough money towards preventing the global spread of diseases that could kill millions of people and cripple economies.

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

The bank said that containing pandemics, diseases that spread globally, as against epidemics that were localised, would cost about one dollar per person per year in investment.

''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, Reuters reported.

''We must make it happen,'' he said.

According to the bank, recent pandemics included 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 seen during the Ebola outbreak that swept West Africa and killed over 11,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

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

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

According to the report, facilities such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and emergency operations centres were crucial assets in the early identification and containment of outbreaks but they remained absent across several nations.

"Preparedness at a national level is the first line of defense against pandemic threats, and thus the foundation of universal health security. Yet we have under-invested in the capabilities essential for preparedness," said Sands.

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