Editorial Notes

A new global health funded needed: Jakarta Post

The paper says the global health system needs to be strengthened to ensure its effectiveness in mitigating a crisis anytime it strikes.

People wearing face masks walking along Orchard Road on Aug 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In what appears to be an expression of dissatisfaction with the World Health Organisation, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo told last week's World Economic Forum (WEF) that Indonesia would strive to help strengthen global health security architecture, which he considered too complex and fragmented.

Speaking in a virtual dialogue with WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab on Jan 20, Jokowi reminded that current global collaboration, such as the Covax Facility, were only temporary solutions to this pandemic.

The WHO's roles, meanwhile, have not yet covered many issues that are clearly strategic for people's daily lives. A permanent solution, which would enable the world to better tackle future health emergencies, is therefore needed.

In Jokowi's mind, the permanent solution takes the shape of a new body that would coordinate global health resources to finance, for instance, the world's health emergency operations and procurement of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.

The body would formulate standardised global health protocols, including for cross-border travel. The new body would also be assigned to empower the capacity of local manufacturers in developing countries, including in managing intellectual property rights, achieving self-sufficiency in pharmaceutical and health equipment supplies and in accessing technology.

The International Monetary Fund is a good example of how the coordination of global financial resources is crucial to supporting countries in crisis, Jokowi said. Hence, the establishment of this new global health fund will be one of Indonesia's focuses during its Group of 20 (G-20) presidency.

Jokowi's proposal reflects the concerns of many countries about the weak global health system, as evident in the unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines between poor and rich countries. It was estimated that about 80 countries were likely unable to achieve the WHO's target of a minimum of 40 per cent vaccination coverage by the end of 2021.

With the apparent benefits of a global health fund, there should be no objection among developed countries to support this joint initiative, Jokowi said in the dialogue. Under Indonesia's leadership, he said, the G-20 would play a crucial role to push forward the development of robust global health security architecture, where, as the first step, there needs to be a joint agreement among the group's member states.

While respecting the work the WHO has done, the Covid-19 crisis shows how fragile the current global health system is. The world body has also suggested more sustainable funding from member countries to help it deliver on its mandate better.

Certainly, Jokowi's call for a global health architecture reset, including his global health fund proposal, still requires formulation in detail. What the new body will look like remains unclear for many of us. But one thing is for sure, the global health system needs to be strengthened to ensure its effectiveness in mitigating a crisis anytime it strikes, and more importantly preventing it from happening in the first place.

The Covid-19 pandemic should serve as a starting point for systematic and fundamental change to the global health system. Countries need a new global framework to support their prevention and control measures effectively against future pandemics. Better pandemic preparedness needs investment and must start now.

The Bali G-20 summit in October of this year will be a perfect moment for Jokowi's call to get concrete responses.

  • The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.

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