Covid-19: Funding for pandemic preparedness ‘sucked away’ by war in Ukraine

A funding gap of about 10.5 billion euros (€12 billion; $12.4 billion) for pandemic preparedness in developing countries has emerged as governments in richer countries divert funds to military aid for Ukraine and other pressing domestic priorities, a conference has said. on development finance.

Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN assistant secretary-general and now president of the charity Open Society Foundations, said funding for a second pandemic in poorer countries was being “sucked away” by funding for Ukraine since the Russian invasion and promises of development. in general, pastures were not kept.

Britain had cut its development funding from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% and commitments from other countries were “falling away”, he said. The reconstruction of Ukraine could cost around 350 billion ISK over the next 10 years, which will also require massive aid.

Many European governments also face increased spending to subsidize their populations as energy costs rise and to support Ukrainian refugees taken in by their countries, which will affect funding available for pandemic preparedness.

At last week’s Future of Development Financing conference in London, organized by Devex, a not-for-profit umbrella group for development charities, Malloch Brown also expressed concern that the pharmaceutical industry could put more pressure on developing countries to plan for future pandemics. .

“I am very concerned that big pharmaceutical companies will get their hands on the pandemic preparedness framework. The development of covid-19 vaccines was really successful, but it has to be set within a regulatory framework that addresses access and pricing and universal access, and that needs strong regulation,” he said.

“We cannot repeat the injustice of Covid-19, which not only had a public health cost but has had a huge political cost that we still live with and which has fueled a whole new level of mistrust of the Global North in the developing world.”

The Open Society Foundations is negotiating with donors for £1 billion of funding to promote equitable access to a covid vaccine and is working with the Gates and Clinton Foundations to secure funding as part of the Covax initiative. The World Health Organization has also set up a financial intermediary fund to channel funding for access to vaccines and pandemic response to poorer countries.

Colin Puzo Smith, director of outreach and communications at RESULTS, a US-based development organization, said there are also pressures on access to vaccines for other diseases. He said: “WHO has had to start rationing cholera vaccine in developing countries where supplies are not sufficient for all outlets that need it, and tuberculosis, the second biggest killer after covid-19, is currently classified as pandemic. likewise,” he said.

Peter Baker, deputy director of the Center for Global Development, said global surveillance of covid-19 and stockpiling of vaccines are needed, but there is an urgent need to improve primary health care in many countries and that “the bulk of funding needs to go to local campaigns.”

Fifa Rahman, representative of the WHO ACT Accelerator and special adviser at Health Poverty Action, said there was a shortage of community health workers in many developing countries and that national programs called for more grassroots health workers to be “armed”.

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