International Day of Epidemic Preparedness

COVID-19 has devasted the world and has shown us how much of an impact this pandemic as well as that of major infectious diseases and epidemics has on human lives, wreaking havoc on long-term social and economic development. Global health crises threaten to overwhelm already overstretched health systems, disrupt global supply chains and cause disproportionate devastation of the livelihoods of people, including women and children, and the economies of the poorest and most vulnerable countries. There is an urgent need to have resilient and robust health systems, which can reach those who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations. The first-ever International Day of Epidemic Preparedness was held on 27 December 2020.

In the event of the absence of international attention, future epidemics could surpass previous outbreaks in terms of intensity and gravity. It is important to strengthen epidemic prevention by applying lessons learned on epidemic management and how to prevent the stoppage of basic services. There is a great need of raising awareness, the exchange of information, scientific knowledge and best practices, quality education, and advocacy programmes on epidemics at the local, national, regional and global levels as effective measures to prevent and respond to epidemics. It is important to strengthen epidemic prevention by applying lessons learned on epidemic management and how to prevent the stoppage of basic services, and to raise the level of preparedness to have the earliest and most adequate response to any epidemic that may arise, and recognising also the value of an integrated One Health approach that fosters the integration of human health, animal health and plant health, as well as environmental and other relevant sectors.

International cooperation and multilateralism play an important role in the response to epidemics. The significance of partnership and solidarity among every individual, community, State, and regional and international organisation, in all stages of epidemic management, can’t be stressed enough, as well as the importance of considering a gender perspective in this regard.

Last month Singapore’s Ministry of Health officially launched a new research programme that aims to build up Singapore’s preparedness and response capabilities for future pandemics. The Programme for Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response’s (PREPARE) immediate task will be to work closely with MOH to develop a national epidemic research and development plan. This dedicated research programme will help to bring together multi-disciplinary experts throughout the pandemic research ecosystem in a coordinated fashion and will also further strengthen Singapore’s existing capabilities by forming research networks as well as developing necessary tools, methods, and products to respond to future infectious disease outbreak threats. Internationally, the new programme will strengthen research partnerships, share information and knowledge, and collaborate in clinical trials with various institutions in the region.

The United Nations system, in particular the World Health Organization, plays a pivotal role in coordinating responses to epidemics, per its mandate, and in supporting national, regional and international efforts to prevent, mitigate and address the impacts of infectious diseases and epidemics under the goal of advancing the 2030 Agenda. There is a need to recognise the primary role and responsibility of Governments and the indispensable contribution of relevant stakeholders in tackling global health challenges, especially women, who make up the majority of the world’s health workers. Member states must commit to ensuring inclusive, equal and non-discriminatory participation, with special attention to those, who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations with the highest chance of epidemic infection. There is an urgent need to have resilient and robust health systems, to reach those who are vulnerable or in vulnerable situations.

The theme for the 2022 International Day of Epidemic Preparedness is

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