In a recent interview with Priti Patnaik, Founding Editor of the Geneva Health Files, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spoke about her work as Co-Chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which is working to provide evidence-based recommendations for addressing future pandemics, grounded in lessons from the global fight against COVID-19 and previous health crises. The Independent Panel was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General and will present its findings to the 74th World Health Assembly scheduled for May 2021.
Madam Sirleaf noted that, since her appointment as Co-Chair of the Independent Panel alongside former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, they have been following an extensive program of work:
“We are…examining the epidemiology and science of SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19, the warnings and guidance issued by the World Health Organization, the ECDC, the African CDC and other bodies, and how countries have responded to these…
Our Panel is now meeting every six weeks to review these questions and progress our work. And, crucially, we are working every day, closely with the Secretariat and a team of researchers to systematically find the answers. There is a methodical schedule to follow to ensure we have a substantive report that lays out the facts and evidence, distills the lessons, and makes recommendations.”
Madam Sirleaf noted the forward-looking nature of the panel’s work. While taking a critical look at the current pandemic and previous health crises, its aim is to ensure that future pandemics can be tackled effectively:
“We are looking at what we must change for the future. We will examine the role of the World Health Organization, and ask whether it has the right mandate, the right powers, the right capacities, and the right financing to deliver on pandemic preparedness and response. And we will also look beyond the WHO, to understand where the multilateral system has, and has not, worked effectively, and what potential changes could be made.”
She also highlighted the wide-ranging impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on society and the panel’s efforts to better understand the full scope of the challenges it has created and exacerbated, particularly for the most vulnerable:
“he pandemic is affecting the very fabric of our societies. We are yet to fully measure the impact of the pandemic on women, on their work, on their safety at home. We cannot yet fully measure the impact of the disruption to education, the loss of access to food, and potential changes in migration. We must better understand the inequities as well including in wealthier countries – the fact this virus is having a bigger impact on people who are poor, people who are racialized and people who are vulnerable, including the aged.”
Read the full interview here.