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All countries remain “dangerously unprepared” for the next pandemic, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned, saying future health crises could also collide with increasingly likely climate-related disasters.
Despite three “brutal” years of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong preparedness systems are “severely lacking”, the IFRC said in its World Disasters Report 2022, published on Monday. It called on countries to update their preparedness plans by year’s end.
The world’s largest humanitarian network said building trust, equity and local action networks were vital to get ready for the next crisis.
The recommendations were released on the third anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 an international public health emergency.
“The next pandemic could be just around the corner,” said Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the IFRC, the world’s largest disaster response network. “If the experience of COVID-19 won’t quicken our steps toward preparedness, what will?”
The report said countries need to be prepared for “multiple hazards, not just one”, adding that societies only became truly resilient through planning for different types of disasters because they can occur simultaneously.
The IFRC cited the rise in climate-related disasters and waves of disease outbreaks this century, of which COVID-19 was just one.
It said extreme weather events are growing more frequent and intense “and our ability to merely respond to them is limited”.
The report said major hazards harm those who are already the most vulnerable. It called leaving the poorest exposed “self-defeating”.
The report also said countries should review their legislation to ensure it is in line with their pandemic preparedness plans by the end of 2023 and adopt a new treaty and revised international health regulations by next year that would invest more in the readiness of local communities.
It also recommended that countries increase domestic health finance by 1 percent of their gross domestic product and global health finance by at least $15bn per year, which Chapagain described as a “good investment to make”.
“The important thing is there has to be a political will to commit to that,” he said. “If it is there, it’s possible.”