Skip to content ↓

The Next Epidemic: Why the World is Still Vulnerable

Disease outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics have adversely affected health for centuries. In 1918, an influenza pandemic infected a third of the world’s population, killing an estimated 50 million people. More recently, SARS, H1N1, Ebola and Zika affected thousands of people and cost countries billions of dollars.

In the coming years, increased air travel and urbanization and climate change will lead to more people being exposed to infectious diseases. Conflict and insecurity are hampering disease prevention and control efforts and result in large amounts of displaced people vulnerable to disease. It is estimated that a severe pandemic can destroy up to one percent of global GDP and have an annual cost of nearly $600 billion.

For these reasons, efforts to strengthen preparedness increased in the 21st century. The International Health Regulations (2005) and Global Health Security Agenda were milestones in this progress. Since 2016, many countries around the world have engaged in voluntary, external assessments of their ability to find, stop and prevent disease. Through these assessments they identified thousands of critical gaps in preparedness, and the actions that should be taken to close them.

Despite these actions, the world is still vulnerable since a gap anywhere can allow disease to spread everywhere. Most countries that assessed their preparedness have large gaps that need to be filled. Five billion people live in countries that have not conducted a voluntary assessment of their readiness. Resolve to Save Lives is creating the momentum needed to strengthen preparedness and keep the world safe.

Hopefully, other countries will be encouraged to follow the example shown by countries like Nigeria who have taken proactive steps to try and strengthen their ability to find, stop and prevent epidemics and keep their citizens safe and healthy.