COVID-19 exposes "deep-rooted vulnerabilities" in public health infrastructure

Author

Denis McClean

Source(s)
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
CDRI full panel December
CDRI hosted a wide-ranging discussion this week on building resilient health infrastructure and supply chains

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed “deep-rooted vulnerabilities” in public health infrastructure and supply chains.

That was the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori at the online event hosted by the Delhi-based Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) yesterday.

“There is a serious job of work ahead to identify all the issues which have led to the overburdening of the health infrastructure and supply chain not only of developing countries but also of highly developed ones,” she said.

She congratulated the CDRI Secretariat on opening a debate on the subject and said that the insights and recommendations resulting from the wide-ranging discussion and the follow-up “will be an essential part of the recovery and preparation for the next pandemic.”

Over 400 people registered for the CDRI-hosted webinar moderated by Kamal Kishore, Member, of India’s National Disaster Management Authority, India, titled “Build Back Better: building resilient health infrastructure and supply chains. What have we learned from COVID-19?”

Mr. Kishore said that the debate would feed into the CDRI World Conference scheduled for March next year which will consider recommendations for action.  

India’s Minister for Health, Dr Harsh Vardhan, said that the number of COVID-19 cases in India were coming down. The main elements of India’s response were to expand capacity for PPE, testing and hospital beds at “an incredible pace.

“From being an importer of PPE before the pandemic, India is now a net exporter of PPE. We scaled up our testing capacity from a few hundred tests per day to a million tests per day,” said Dr. Vardhan.

He also listed effective communication as a cornerstone of India’s strategy, an effort which the Prime Minister had led, addressing citizens directly on the issues.

The effort required the involvement of all government functions including disaster management, industry, civil aviation, shipping, pharmaceuticals and others.

Dr. Vardhan said that “the key lesson from the pandemic is that the principles of resilience must be integral to our quest for economic growth.” He also called for the good practices that have been developed in many countries responding to the pandemic to be “institutionalized.”

Dr. Michel Yao, WHO Director, Strategic Health Operations,  said that WHO is calling “for global, regional and national actions to scale up investment in programmes and initiatives that strengthen health infrastructure including health care facilities and supply chains for the protection of people’s  health and well-being from emergencies and disasters including the current COVID-19.”

Dr. Yao concluded: “No one is safe until everyone is safe and exclusion is more costly in the long run.”

A message from Sri Lanka’s Minister for Health, Pavithra Wanniarachi, said that the comprehensive measures put in place before the country’s first case of COVIFD-19 was identified, enabled the country to successfully hold parliamentary elections and school exams during the pandemic.  The government’s strategy paid particular attention to tackling rumours.

Dr Raza Siddiqui, CEO of the Arabian Health Care Group, Dubai, said that private sector health care was a vital part of the UAE’s overall response to the pandemic and over 15 million tests – free of cost - have been carried out in a country with a population of nine million. The UAE created international quality quarantine centres using many of the country five-star hotels which were converted for that purpose.

Dr. Siddiqui said that special attention was paid to the morale of front-line health care workers and one effective measure was to provide them with testing every 15 days. This made both staff and patients feel secure.

Political commitment and leadership from the President of Liberia, George Weah, was critical to the success of the country’s containment strategy for the pandemic which also built on the experience and tools developed to fight the Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016, according to Henry O. Williams, Executive Director, National Disaster Management Agency. 

Hans-Peter Teufers, Director, International Programmes, UPS Foundation, spoke of the logistical challenges of delivering PPE in the early stages of the pandemic. Mr. Teufers also stressed the importance of running simulations to make sure we have a good perspective on what can happen in any given situation for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

Prof. Rajib Shaw, Keio University, Japan, called for a more holistic, comprehensive view of resilience in the health care system.“We often have our worst-case scenario for only one type of hazard. So how can we have a multi-hazard, cascading worst-case scenario?” he said.

You can check out the full webinar on this link.

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