On September 6, 2021, the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO/EMRO), in partnership with the Lancet-SIGHT Commission on Peaceful Societies through Health and Gender Equality, Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), and Abu Dhabi Public Health Center (ADPHC), co-hosted a webinar regarding the Eastern Mediterranean region’s perspective on pandemic preparedness and response and the proposed International Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
During the webinar, ministerial and government leaders, experts in pandemic preparedness and response, and academic researchers discussed the realities and opportunities for pandemic preparedness and response in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Speakers explained that pandemic preparedness and response must be better tailored to the Eastern Mediterranean region’s needs, including in fragile, conflict and vulnerable settings. Ministers of Health from Somalia and Tunisia emphasized the need for investments in health system strengthening, including for disease surveillance, laboratory capacity, and vaccine provision. Government leaders from the UAE and Sweden highlighted the importance of international development assistance and cooperation and called for the equal distribution of vaccines through COVAX and sustainable finance for the WHO.
Experts also debated how to improve pandemic preparedness and response with new and existing tools. One of the IPPPR’s recommendations to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future pandemics is to elevate leadership for global health, including by creating an International Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The proposed Pandemic Framework Convention could facilitate global cooperation and coordination and help to strengthen preparedness and response systems, financing, governance, and oversight. However, speakers raised concerns about inadequate political leadership during the pandemic and the ineffective use of existing tools, such as the International Health Regulations.
The proposed Pandemic Framework Convention is currently under debate and will be discussed at the Special Session at the World Health Assembly in November 2021. Speakers highlighted that governments in the Eastern Mediterranean region have an opportunity to demonstrate strong collective action and share their perspective to shape the future of pandemic preparedness and response.