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Speeches & TranscriptsMay 28, 2024

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, Senior Managing Director, at the Pandemic Fund Ministerial Event, World Health Assembly

Good morning, good afternoon. I’m pleased to open this High-level event convened by the Pandemic Fund at the World Health Assembly.

It’s great that today the Pandemic Fund is launching its Strategic Plan. This sets the Fund’s priorities for the next five years to help countries and regions become better prepared to prevent, detect, contain, and rapidly respond to pandemics.

We are living in a world of interconnected global challenges, requiring urgent collective action – and solidarity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disruptive nature of disease outbreaks when we are unprepared. Millions of lives and trillions of dollars in global GDP were lost because we were not able to contain a virus.

But this was not the first time that the world was faced with a pandemic. Previous outbreaks – like Avian Influenza, SARS, Ebola -- have also had far-reaching social and economic consequences.  

As a global community, we share a longstanding concern about weaknesses in prevention and preparedness for disease outbreaks and pandemics, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.  

We need to act with urgency to address these weaknesses, given the increased threat of outbreaks, exacerbated by climate change, migration, and antimicrobial resistance – or AMR. Experts predict that there’s more than a 50% likelihood that another COVID-like pandemic will hit us in the next 20 to 25 years.

We know that relatively modest investments will help avert the much larger costs that the world will incur if we are unprepared for the next global health crisis. Yet, adequate, sustained funding has not followed.

The international community has a key role to play, both in bringing additional financing, and incentivizing countries to do more.  

In September 2022, we took a significant step towards augmenting the global health security architecture by establishing the Pandemic Fund – a first of its kind.  It is an innovative, multilateral financing platform dedicated to investing in critical pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacities in low- and middle-income countries.  

The Pandemic Fund is designed so that when the battle comes again, and we know it will, we will have the necessary surveillance capacity.

This includes AMR surveillance, laboratories that can quickly ramp up testing, a health workforce that can be rapidly deployed in the face of a crisis, and surge capacity that can be called upon to respond.

The Pandemic Fund is doing things differently because it has the flexibility to work through a variety of institutions, complementing efforts, drawing in co-financing, and promoting coordination on the ground. Plus, most importantly, it incentivizes countries to prioritize this agenda and increase their own effort.

 The World Bank is proud to have been a part of this initiative from the very start, bringing lessons from good practice and many years of experience.

Working closely with the founding donors, the WHO, Civil Society Organizations, and other partners, we were able to develop the Fund at record speed.  We are pleased to host the Secretariat and to serve as the Fund’s Trustee and as an Implementing Entity.

The Pandemic Fund is a testament to the possibility of global coordination. The Fund was championed by Italy and Indonesia during their respective G20 presidencies. And thanks to generous contributions from the United States, the European Union, and many others, it has already raised over US$2 billion in seed funding.

The speed at which this Fund has come together to deliver financing is impressive. It has awarded the first round of grants to projects that strengthen capacity, both within and across borders, with every dollar catalyzing an additional $6. And the second round of funding is set to be awarded later this year.

Projects supported under the first wave are already demonstrating the Pandemic Fund’s value addition to the global health architecture – by filling critical gaps, mobilizing additive financing, and galvanizing partner coordination and collaboration, through multisectoral, One Health approaches centered around country and regional needs.

We will hear more about some of these transformational projects from the health leaders gathered today.  

Continuing this momentum of investments is critical for building a safer, healthier, and more prosperous future for all.

It will require more resources on a sustained basis, and at the same time, deploying resources for maximum impact. I look forward to seeing the results.

Thank you.


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