In 1981 the world estimated more than 400,000 cases of polio worldwide due to a vast outbreak during the early years of that decade. Since the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative by Rotary, WHO, US, UNICEF and subsequently Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent. An astonishing achievement. A big challenge still persists in Pakistan and Afghanistan to eradicate the last cases. The on-going pandemic makes access to vaccination in general more difficult, particularly in poor settings. Given the experience with reduction of polio cases together with the extremely efficient vaccine development against SARS-CoV-2, there is good hope to tackle and prevent the prevailing and future virus outbreaks.
With the solid knowledge and deep engagement among students and young professionals, facing global challenges constituting the 2030 Agenda, I have a strong and convinced belief that we are approaching a constructive and positive future. In this context, SIGHT Fellows Programme and student organisations inspire.
Thanks to a grant from Sida (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), SIGHT is now happy to commence our second round of the “SIGHT Fellow Programme” comprising 11 scientists, all with various scientific backgrounds from seven Swedish universities. I look forward to a challenging and stimulating adventure.
SIGHT has also employed two new student coordinators for the coming year. This is now our 4th pair of coordinators. The competence and engagement among these students are amazing. SIGHT is fortunate to have these young students and early carrier researchers/fellows who inspire us all with their ideas and forward thinking. Warmest thanks to Solomiya Kasyanchuk and Nora Piay Fernandez for excellent contributions as student coordinators 2020-2021!
The on-going pandemic is still a huge concern to the world, although there is progress towards an improved situation. The pandemic has slowed down the work for the SDGs, and efforts to regain must now be increased with higher intensity. Clearly, when the virus phase of COVID-19 is over, economic and social difficulties will surface once many of the extra support systems come to an end. This needs coherent collaboration and responsible actions from all countries around the globe.
“COVID-19: Make it the last pandemic” says the recently launched report from The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response (IPPPR). The report has attracted a lot of international interest. It gives a thorough analysis of what countries did – or not did. From the diagnosis of what went wrong the report provides a roadmap forward with a prescription with a number of recommendations and a timetable, of which some must be implemented immediately. This is excellent.
The Panel further suggests creating a “Global Health Threats Council” aiming at transforming the international system for pandemic preparedness and response. A challenge will be how to align such a “Council” to the prevailing global health architecture and its relation to the IHR. The instructions of the “Council” appear solely to address issues that relate closely to pandemic prevention, preparedness and responses. Given the name of the “Council”, one may wonder whether also other threats against health are included, such as the on-going climate crisis? Clearly, the focus is now on the pandemic and taking global action accordingly. Equally important, however, is to keep and accelerate actions against the climate crisis and to meet the ecology and biodiversity challenges. Now is the time to bring forward experiences from lessons learnt during the pandemic also in tackling other big global tasks.
Stay safe and take care of each other