Addressing the G7 as the group prepares for a summit in Germany, Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, said the global health system would be unprepared for another epidemic.
MSF urged G7 leaders to commit to the development of an effective emergency response system against health crises around the world, in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. That outbreak highlighted the need for urgent funding for diagnosing and treating neglected diseases as well as ensuring that access to medicine is available to those in developing countries.
Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International, said G7 leaders must recognize the gaping hole within the global health system and make the necessary steps to prevent the loss of thousands of lives when the next epidemic hits.
The problems encountered during the Ebola outbreak – like poor surveillance, delayed announcement, slow response, lack of vaccines and the absence of strong leadership – are nothing new. MSF encounters these on a daily basis, but given the scope of the outbreak, not addressing these problems effectively led to disastrous results.
Florian Westphal, managing director for MSF Germany, said there is a void in today's global health leadership, adding that calls for reform within the World Health Organization have died down and that members of the United Nations have not come to an understanding of how a rapid, effective response can be made into a reality.
According to the MSF, the global health and aid system is designed in such a way that it rewards countries that strive more toward reaching their long-term development goals — leaving little incentive for those who take initiative and declare outbreaks despite the threat to tourism and trade. This shouldn't be the case. Instead, countries must acknowledge the benefit in publicly recognizing outbreaks while wealthier nations move to deploy resources to aid health ministries in coping with public health crises.
Germany currently chairs G7, prioritizing three health issues for the group: antimicrobial resistance, neglected diseases and Ebola. The lack of medical tools and medicine in these areas reflect the brokenness of the research and development system.
Philipp Frisch from MSF's Access Campaign said G7 leaders must see the importance of funding research and development to address unmet health needs. The international community, dragging its heels on research and development, has contributed to preventable deaths as medication becomes either too expensive to take or is simply not available.
Photo: Eneas De Troya | Flickr