‘If Covid-19 taught us nothing else it’s that when health is at risk, everything is at risk.’
The UK government has said that it is to harness scientific expertise in supporting global health by providing funding to invest in research to tackle some of the world’s pressing health challenges. The funding will help address future pandemics, boost research into vaccines and reduce deaths from infectious diseases. The announcement was made during the High-Level week of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held in New York from 18-22 September 2023.
The funding package includes £103.5 million for developing affordable vaccines through the UK Vaccine Network, along with other treatments, that will help stop the spread of infectious disease. There is also funding for programmes to protect women’s reproductive health and reduce preventable deaths.
The UK will also partner with Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the WHO to help detect and address future pandemics, drug resistant infections, and climate change. This work will be carried out under the Tackling Deadly Diseases in Africa Programme II, for which the UK is providing £95 million in financial support.
The government said that these investments, among others, showed its commitment to helping achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. ‘New research and development funding […] will help partners to prepare for, prevent and respond rapidly to disease outbreaks with pandemic potential, including Ebola’, said UK government Health Minister, Will Quince.
There is also funding for the TB Alliance to support the development and testing of new or improved treatments for tuberculosis.
The UK government’s announcement came as the UN calls on world leaders to commit to progress on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPPR). On 20th September the UN High-Level Meeting on PPPR gave Member States a forum to not only discuss how to prevent and prepare for pandemics, but consider the health, social and economic consequences. ‘If Covid-19 taught us nothing else it’s that when health is at risk, everything is at risk’, said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. ‘The UN General Assembly is the moment for world leaders to show they have learned the painful lessons of the pandemic, and take concrete steps towards a healthier, safer and fairer world for all people’, Ghebreyesus added.