WHO Chief’s Chilling Warning: Worse Pandemics Are Inevitable

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director, recently sounded a somber alarm at the World Health Assembly forum in Geneva, Switzerland. He cautioned that a pathogen deadlier than the COVID-19 virus could emerge. He said his warnings were not intended to stir panic but to inspire proactive planning and coordinated international response.

Tedros communicated that the threat of another virus causing more disease and death still lingers. The prospect of a deadlier pandemic is not a probability to be dismissed. He stressed, “When the next pandemic comes knocking – and it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively, and equitably.”

Echoing these sentiments, Tedros drew attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Triple Billion targets. He stressed that the pandemic has significantly impacted these ambitious global health milestones.

This global health disaster has hampered progress toward the Triple Billion targets introduced in 2017. These critical goals aim to ensure one billion more people have universal health coverage, one billion more are better protected from health emergencies, and another billion enjoy better health and well-being.

However, as Tedros outlined, this pandemic has demonstrated that all eight billion people on Earth need better protection in health emergencies. The mission is vast and complex, but it also underscores the necessity of proactive measures and international cooperation.

Continuing his assessment, Tedros reported that the world had made some headway in universal health coverage, with an additional 477 million people benefitting. Yet, he warned that fewer than half the world’s people will have coverage by 2030 if current trends persist. It underscores the need to double the pace of progress.

Tedros expressed a keen focus on disease prevention in his address. Between 2017 and 2022, for instance, 133 governments took the initiative to increase or introduce new taxes on health-harming products like tobacco and sugary drinks. The movement to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fat from the global food supply also demonstrated promising progress.

Looking forward, the WHO chief encouraged countries to advance “urgent and constructive negotiations” on the new global pandemic accord and the International Health Regulations (IHR), which govern preparedness and response to health emergencies. His aim? To ensure the world will never again endure the devastation of a pandemic like COVID-19.

The upshot of the warning, as always, was a plea for additional funding. Tedros appealed to member nations to support a 20% percent increase in their contributions to support the WHO.