Health and Science

If a new pandemic hits, most countries aren't ready: World Bank group

Most countries are not adequately prepared for another infectious disease outbreak, despite progress made in the aftermath of recent Zika and Ebola cases, according to new research.

A report by The International Working Group (IWG) on Financing Pandemic Preparedness — a bloc of business, academic and non-profit experts created by the World Bank — said many countries are chronically under-invested in critical public health infrastructure.

Facilities such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and emergency operations centers are crucial assets in the early identification and containment of outbreaks but they remain absent across several nations, the report stated.

"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 Peter Sands, chair of the IWG and a senior fellow at Harvard University.

A lack of financing for containment and preventative measures is simply bad economics, given the low cost of preparedness relative to a pandemic's impact, the report claimed.

The investment required is just $1 per person per year in low-and middle-income countries, while the annual global cost of severe pandemics is $570 billion, or 0.7 percent of global income, according to the report.

Going forward, governments must ensure that economic risks of diseases are factored into macroeconomic assessments and reinforce tax resources to finance preparedness, the report recommended.