Two years since the first signs of the West Africa Ebola outbreak, the world today is little more prepared to respond to such an emergency than it was then, warns Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), while the lack of R&D into needed medicines and exorbitant medicine prices requires urgent and united action from the world leaders gathered in Japan.
As the leaders of the G7 countries gather in Ise-Shima for the next two days, MSF urges them to make a bold commitment to put the means to respond to health emergencies at the heart of global health systems.
“Special attention must to be given to ensure that responding to health emergencies remains central in all discussions on health security and universal health coverage (UHC),” said Dr Monica Rull, Operations Health Advisor with MSF. “Strengthening emergency response must be guided by the health needs of those caught in crisis, instead of being triggered only when it is considered an international security threat.”
The laudable goal of universal health coverage is for no one to suffer financial hardship to access healthcare and should be strived for.
But it is clear the needs and threats of mass disease epidemics persist, from flare-ups of Ebola cases earlier this year in West Africa to the current outbreak of Yellow Fever in Angola.
The situation today is a critically limited emergency response capacity in some fragile and developing countries. The G7 countries should take the opportunity to lead the international community in doing more to cover the gaps where countries cannot cope alone, or where part of the population is neglected or marginalised.
“Strengthening global health systems without increasing the capacity and resources to respond to emergencies is like building a hospital, but forgetting to include an emergency room,” said Jeremie Bodin, General Director of MSF Japan.