Two years ago, I left UNICEF and stopped What I Read. Several of you reached out recently and I realized that I missed these weekly exchanges with colleagues around the globe, most of whom I had never met in person. Glad to be back hoping you are all well!
The Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal, reviews recent research on the connections between biodiversity and pandemics in “The tip of the iceberg: is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?”. Disrupted ecosystems are a breeding ground for new viruses. Natural habitats degradation accelerates the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans. And today the majority of new diseases affecting humans come from animals. This shows how the health of the environment, the health of humans, and the health of the economy are interconnected. Two thoughts. One, the SDGs which capture such interlinkages remain the right compass. Two, the crisis response should be designed around these interdependences to ensure long term recovery.
Will the COVID-19 response put climate action on the back burner? Paris Accord architect Laurence Tubiana draws a parallel between the two crises: “It’s a lesson:viruses don’t respect borders, climate change doesn’t respect borders. If we do not manage the climate crisis it will be the same.” UCL Economist Mariana Mazzucato argues that “it’s a chance to do capitalism differently” and that bailouts should be structured around the green new deal strategy. Indeed, for New Yorker Bill McKibben, as large corporations are seeking governmental support, there is an opportunity to make it conditional to meeting the Paris Accord targets because “taking money from society means that you owe society something.”
My graph this week is from the 2019 Global Health Security Index, the first assessment of pandemic preparedness for 195 countries. It compiles publicly available data about countries’ levels of health security along six dimensions – prevention, detection, response, health system, norms compliance, and political system. Led by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security with the Economist Intelligence Unit, it was launched in 2017 shortly after health security featured prominently at Munich Security Conference and Bill Gates called for an “arsenal of new weapons—vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics – to prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war”. Published 6 months ago, the index showed that no country was fully prepared. It ranked US 1st, France 11th, Singapore 24th, Italy 31st, and China 51st. In view of COVID19 responses, revisions might be needed. But what worries me the most is what will happen in the 72 countries classified as least prepared.
My quote this week: “Stay home!”