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Yellen urges G20 to back global pandemic prevention fund

Warning that failure to close gaps in global health systems could result in ‘devastating’ costs.
Image: Bloomberg

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday urged G20 members to back a proposed fund to invest in pandemic prevention and preparedness, warning that failure to close gaps in global health systems could result in “devastating” costs.

Yellen told finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 top economies that the new financial intermediary fund – to be hosted at the World Bank – would help channel the estimated $75 billion in investments needed to reduce global vulnerabilities to future pandemics.

“While the human and economic trauma of the (Covid-19) pandemic is fresh in our minds, we have a political window to act to address the deficiencies in our global health architecture,” she said, according to a text of her prepared remarks. “The cost of not doing so could be devastating.”

In the remarks to be delivered remotely at the meeting hosted by Indonesia, Yellen sought to dispel reservations raised by some G20 countries about the proposed fund, arguing that it would not siphon off funds needed to strengthen the World Health Organisation, or create a new multilateral organization.

“We don’t see this as a pool of money that sits idly waiting to respond to the next pandemic,” she said, adding that the new fund would help incentivise countries to invest in disease detection and surveillance systems to prepare for future crises.

Other investments could flow into research laboratories or help strengthen countries’ healthcare workforces, she said.

The new fund’s flexibility would also allow countries to mobilise additional resources from non-government sources for pandemic preparedness, she said.

“We should begin our work now to set up this fund so that it is ready to go as soon as possible,” she said.

Yellen also called on the Multilateral Leaders Task Force made up of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, WHO and World Trade Organisation to outline clear, actionable steps to ensure that people everywhere got access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The task force should also prepare a detailed, country-by-country assessment of work done to advance vaccine supply and vaccination efforts, as well as supplies of diagnostics, therapeutics and personal protective equipment, she said.

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