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26 May 16 17:31

A faster response to pandemics is crucial; how global insurance could help.

There is a direct correlation between the speed of response and how impactful pandemics can be on human health. Swift access to funds to respond effectively to outbreaks and health emergencies is among the most pressing challenges facing the international community and a leading indicator how we combat future threats. 

The Ebola crisis of 2014 is a case in point. Tragically, over 11,000 people died as donor funds only became available months into the outbreak. The financial resources to react grow exponentially with time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only USD 4.8 million was needed at the outset of the outbreak in April 2014, but quickly grew to USD 4 billion by January 2015.  In the face of evolving challenges, we must explore ways of responding faster to protect vulnerable communities and save more lives.

A new study by graduate students of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., with guidance from Swiss Re suggests that a global insurance system could change that – especially for climate change-linked diseases.

The findings of the study highlight the potential of a mechanism currently being developed by Swiss Re and others in partnership with the World Bank known as the Pandemic Emergency Facility (PEF) facilitated by the World Bank. By collaborating with the private sector under the PEF, governments or regions could respond to an outbreak before it spreads, allowing health officials to take aggressive action and giving them the funds to do so.

The need for speedy response became abundantly clear during the Ebola virus outbreak, where international health officials were caught off-guard, and travellers had carried the disease across continents before an effective response could gear up.

The United Nations estimates that the Ebola outbreak cost up to $20 billion in gross domestic product losses in afflicted regions through 2017. Though no definitive link between climate change and the spread of the Ebola virus has been established, its effects show the potential of other diseases wreaking havoc in a warming world.

Mosquitos are the deadliest animals on earth and, unfortunately, this will only intensify as their habitats expand with warmer, wetter weather and blend with greater urbanization. We must find innovative solutions to fund faster responses to these outbreaks, particularly for populations that may not be prepared to handle them.

Click here to watch the debate from SAIS. The full report can be found here: Pandemics in a Changing Climate


Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine, Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Other

Location: Washington, D.C., DC, United States


1 Comment

Urs Leimbacher - 27 May 2016, 7:45 p.m.

Thanks for your great work with the SAIS / Johns Hopkings University student group, Alex! Innovate risk transfer instruments to react faster in response to disease outbreaks can really help save lifes. A very noble cause indeed for the re/insurance industry.


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