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G7 leaders are urged to commit to health emergency response

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3057 (Published 04 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3057
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

The leaders of the world’s seven richest nations have been warned that the world is no better prepared to respond to the Ebola virus than it was a year ago.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the charity that was at the front line of the west Africa epidemic and was one of the first to urge the international community to respond, said that the global health system remains unprepared for mass disease outbreaks. It has urged the leaders of the countries at this week’s G7 summit in Germany to commit to developing an efficient emergency response system.

At last week’s World Health Assembly in Geneva the World Health Organization pledged to overhaul its emergency and humanitarian crisis response system, but member states failed to offer any additional funding.

Florian Westphal, managing director of MSF Germany, said that no clear agreement had been made at the assembly on how WHO should move forward. “There is a palpable vacuum of global health leadership today . . . We hope that the G7 leaders will show greater political leadership and prioritise health emergencies to prevent future epidemics spiralling so far out of control,” he said.

MSF said that countries should be incentivised to declare a disease outbreak early to stem fears over the economic consequences of an epidemic, as recommended by Barbara Stocking, chair of an independent panel assessing WHO’s handling of Ebola.1

Data from WHO published on 2 June showed 27 040 cases of the disease to date, including 11 140 deaths. In the week to 24 May nine cases of the disease were recorded in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone. Liberia remains Ebola-free.

Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany and chair of the G7 meeting this year, has put three health issues on the agenda: Ebola; neglected diseases; and microbial resistance. However, MSF has urged world leaders to “fix the R&D [research and development] system” and to prioritise such funding into these areas.

Philipp Frisch, of MSF’s Access Campaign, said, “The lack of R&D for Ebola, antimicrobial resistance and neglected diseases is an enormous problem; millions of people suffer from diseases for which there are no effective drugs or vaccines, because they don’t represent a lucrative market for the pharmaceutical industry.”

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3057

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