Commentary: Better global governance for public health needed to defeat pandemics

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 30, 2020
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by Xinhua writer Shi Xiaomeng

BEIJING, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Almost 40 years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the world free of smallpox, an infectious disease that is believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago.

The eradication of smallpox, which claimed an estimated 300 million lives in the 20th century alone, was a fine example of how the world can jointly beat a pandemic with a global effort.

As humanity is wrestling with a new common enemy, a previously unknown coronavirus, this highly interconnected world has made the ongoing international drive to safeguard global public health an unprecedented struggle.

While globalization is not to blame for the current pandemic, the sudden strike of the new disease has indeed highlighted a thought-provoking reality: the existing global public health governance has fallen behind the need of the times, and should be upgraded accordingly.

In face of the ravaging pandemic, the priority is for countries around the world to come together and build what Chinese President Xi Jinping called for at the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit last week a global network of control and treatment so as to better share critical information, take broadly coordinated measures, cut off the chain of transmission, both domestically and trans-nationally, and rein in the ongoing pandemic as soon as possible.

An enhanced global cooperation mechanism for the development of drugs and vaccines needs to be stressed in this network.

Policy makers, experts and medical professionals worldwide should also try to jointly come up with a set of both lessons and useful experiences to guide the work against the pandemic and even future health emergencies.

Second, there is an urgent need to help those under-developed countries and regions with vulnerable health systems build up their capability, so that the weak points in the global network of epidemic prevention and treatment can be strengthened.

The World Bank announced earlier this month a plan to provide a fast and flexible response to meet the needs of developing countries in dealing with the spread of COVID-19, which includes emergency financing, policy advice and technical assistance.

The third task is for governments around the world to create a global architecture for the health of all mankind, within which the United Nations (UN) and the WHO should be given a core role.

The nation-state global system in today's world is without a central authority. Yet, as globalization deepens, countries across the globe need to cope with a growing array of shared challenges, such as climate change and infectious diseases.

Therefore, besides the UN, such a wide-reaching agency as the WHO could function as a platform to facilitate coordination among nations in the field of global health security.

The WHO has successfully headed missions to tackle diseases like smallpox, Ebola and Zika over recent years, and should be placed in a stronger position to guide future global health cooperation ranging from epidemic early warning to prevention and control, as well as effective vaccine and drug research and development.

In 1851, the first International Sanitary Conference opened in Paris to standardize international quarantine regulations against the spread of cholera, plague, and yellow fever, a pioneering event for global cooperation on fighting infectious diseases.

More than 150 years later, the threat one lethal pathogen can pose to human health is even greater, as people around the world are linked like never before.

The ultimate solution is not to turn back the clock, but for the human race to move forward. Enditem

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