The pandemic financing gap has prompted G20 members to establish the Pandemic Fund, which has been officially launched in the G2O Indonesian presidency.
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NUSA DUA, KOMPAS – The Pandemic Fund, which has been officially initiated during Indonesia’s Group of 20 presidency, is expected to address the global pandemic financing gap in the future. It will be an inclusive fund management, especially to address the financial needs of poor and developing countries so that the goal of providing equal access to the funding can be achieved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the weaknesses of the global health-resilience system. The funding gap in handling the pandemic has been very wide. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank have estimated US$10.5 billion is needed to bridge the financing gap.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, during the launch of the Pandemic Fund in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Sunday (11/13/2022), said the pandemic had exposed the financing incapacity of the health systems in low- and middle-income countries, ranging from laboratory, human resources and health infrastructure, to diagnostic systems and primary healthcare provision.
“When the pandemic hit those countries, the world was exposed to risks. In the face of a global pandemic, we can cope with it only when all countries are ready and [financially] able to deal with it," she said.
Therefore, according to Sri Mulyani, international financing plays an important role in supporting low- and middle-income countries to be better prepared to face health problems in the future. This international financing also needs to be increased to strengthen the public health system. The public and private sectors should be able to fulfill these needs.
This then became the basis for the founding of the Pandemic Fund, which had previously been referred to as the intermediary fund for pandemic prevention, preparedness and responses. The Pandemic Fund aims to serve as a financing catalyst integrated with other funding instruments for the world to be better prepared and better at handling pandemics in the future. The fund channeling mechanism used will be in the form of grants.
Sri Mulyani emphasized that the Pandemic Fund was not simply a G20 but a global joint initiative that called for the involvement of various parties to support the funding.
“We will continue to build more inclusive [funding] governance and further strengthen the global health architecture. This Pandemic Fund is a milestone, which is the starting point for all of us [to show] that the G20 is able to produce concrete actions that have a [positive] impact on the world," Sri Mulyani said.
As many as 20 donors, consisting of G20 member countries, non-G20 countries, and world philanthropic organizations, have pledged their commitments to the Pandemic Fund. The pledged commitment to the funding reached $1.4 billion. This fund is expected to increase with other parties set to follow suit.
World Bank president David Malpass believes the Pandemic Fund could serve both as an important tool to support low- and middle-income countries to be better prepared for global health crisis mitigation efforts and an incentive for these countries to prioritize their own needs.
“We are appealing to all countries to contribute to the Pandemic Fund. The Pandemic Fund can help the world become safer,” he said. “It will save more lives and reduce the world’s expenditure in the years to come.”
He pointed out the need for the Pandemic Fund to be managed in a spirit of collective responsibility and inclusivity, which involved the participation of co-investors and civil society. He added that the operational structure of the funding would have to be more flexible, transparent and accountable.
“The Pandemic Fund provides an opportunity to do something different in helping the countries in the regions for the sake of a stronger world in the face of global threats,” he said.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, when interviewed on a separate occasion, said the Pandemic Fund would be allocated more for preventive and mitigating measures during pandemics in order to help improve each country’s domestic community healthcare services.
“With the national health system in each country being strengthened, they will be better prepared to face a pandemic. Therefore, the government becomes well-prepared, so do the community and the national healthcare systems,” he said.
Budi said Indonesia had planned to submit a proposal for financial support from the Pandemic Fund to be used to strengthen the network of public health laboratories throughout Indonesia.
This sought funding would also be used to develop biotechnology in Indonesia by building biotechnology-based laboratories, increasing human resource capacity, and expanding biotechnology manufacturing.
"So, should another pandemic occur, we will be better prepared with more established research and development related to biotechnology. If there is a pandemic caused by a pathogen, we can immediately conduct research and find the cause, as well as produce appropriate drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools," he said.
Dian Maria Blendina, a member of social organization People's Health Movement, reminded about the need to adopt the principle of equitability the Pandemic Fund management. Given the involvement of the private sector through philanthropic groups, she raised her concern about the management policies potentially being directed by the largest donors only to fulfill their own interests.
"Don't let the Pandemic Fund only be directed to health programs only for their interests, without being concerned about the prioritized interests of the community," he said.