Build the Health Workforce Back Better to Prevent Future Pandemics

Frontline health workers are crucial for pandemic preparedness and response but for too long health workers have largely been taken for granted. The assumption seems to be that they are already ready and able to jump into action, keep health services going, and scale up one or another specific health intervention.

Yet, of all the factors delaying access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care, health workforce challenges are the most cited bottleneck, according to a WHO survey of 129 countries. Vaccine delivery has also been delayed by workforce inadequacies.

WHO states that these challenges arise due to “a combination of pre-existing shortages [of health workers] coupled with unavailability due to COVID-19 infections and deaths, mental health issues and burnout and departures from service due to a lack of decent working conditions.”

The factor of gender cannot be ignored. The health workforce is largely female, and it is not a coincidence that remuneration for their labor is often inadequate or inconsistently provided. Only 14% of community health workers in Africa are salaried, with many considered “volunteers,” part of the broader injustice of women’s care labor not being compensated.

COVID-19 has shown this is not just theoretical. Now, and in future pandemics, we need a motivated and supported health workforce to ensure acceptance and delivery of vaccines, disease surveillance, and risk communication.

Join the Frontline Health Workers Coalition and partners for World Health Worker Week on April 4-8 to push donors and governments to do more to protect and support a resilient health workforce.

Here a few ways you can get involved in World Health Worker Week:

 

Photo courtesy of IntraHealth International.

New Study and Documentary Reveal Grim Pandemic Realities for America’s Doctors and Nurses

Frontline workers say they need more preparation, staff, and PPE and better information and diagnostics

November 18, 2021, Seattle, WA—Today, the Pandemic Action Network released new research findings revealing challenges that continue to burden doctors and nurses in the U.S. well over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and pointing to what is required to be better prepared for this crisis and future pandemic threats. Notably, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a problem — with nearly a third of doctors and nurses saying they did not have sufficient access to PPE, even as recently as summer 2021. Sixty-one percent felt that they did not have sufficient early warning to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite best efforts, a third felt it was challenging to follow changing workflows and protocols.

The study, funded by Flu Lab, included a survey conducted by Klick Consulting of 532 doctors and nurses from across the U.S. The survey focused on addressing perceptions of pandemic readiness, knowledge, containment, treatment, and vaccination. Additional qualitative interviews with nearly four dozen health officials, public health workers, doctors, and nurses, revealed a stark reality: while healthcare workers are committed to caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have faced increased personal risks and an exceptionally high work volume. And they need more support.

Dr. Carrie Tibbles, an ER physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, participated in this research. “Healthcare systems are really stressed right now, and the workforce is tired. Hospitals need support to build back up — and build our workforce back up — so we can take care of our communities,” said Dr. Tibbles. “The pandemic hit us so hard and in Boston, we felt the first wave shortly after New York. We were able to learn in real time from our friends and colleagues in New York and I’m confident we saved many lives as a result. But if we were armed with the tools to be better prepared for pandemics, I know we could do more.”

These stories further come to life in the new documentary, The First Wave, premiering today in New York at the DOC NYC festival and showing in select theaters tomorrow. The film focuses on the doctors, nurses, and patients from one of New York’s hardest-hit hospital systems during the “first wave” from March to June 2020. By laying bare what healthcare workers braved in hospitals flooded with COVID patients, The First Wave honors both their ongoing commitment to their patients, as well as their own personal sacrifice.

“The study results and the harrowing realities presented in The First Wave make one thing clear: we need to listen to doctors and nurses,” said Gabrielle Fitzgerald, co-founder of Pandemic Action Network. “Hailing health workers as heroes is insufficient — we must ensure they have the information and equipment to do their jobs effectively — before, during, and after a crisis.”

Survey participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their perspectives. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my pandemic experience and opinions… It is a rarity that we are asked about our experience,” said one participant. Another shared, “Thanks for working to improve our processes and systems for the next time this happens (hopefully never).”

“Healthcare workers around the country have been stretched to their breaking points countless times over the course of the pandemic. As a group, we have been labeled heroes, but healthcare workers are only human, and resilience is waning in the face of exhaustion and burnout,” said Dr. Kelly C. Sanders, a pediatrician and Pandemic Action Network member. Dr. Sanders also serves as the technical lead for the Pandemic Response Initiative at UCSF and co-authored a case study on the first year of the pandemic in the U.S. “As a country, if we don’t continue to improve frontline conditions, we risk losing desperately needed healthcare workers. We need to improve local vaccination rates, develop new diagnostic and treatment options, and provide more resources for our stressed public health and hospital systems. This is how the American public and decision-makers can show up for the frontline now.”

To respond to the findings of this study, Pandemic Action Network is calling on U.S. policymakers to:

  • Fully resource and accelerate the global COVID-19 response by allocating at least US$17 billion of new funding to assist the world in reaching 70 percent vaccine coverage in every country by the middle of 2022; save lives now through increased access to other lifesaving tools; and prevent future pandemics from occurring. Learn more.
  • Provide ongoing funding for surge capacity and measures that prioritize the safety and security of healthcare workers.
  • Approve the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act, in tandem with the Global Health Security Act to strengthen America’s cross-government coordination on pandemic preparedness and response and bolster our support for global preparedness.
  • Approve legislation to strengthen America’s Strategic National Stockpile to ensure adequate PPE and medical supplies for healthcare workers.
  • Approve the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals.
  • Approve a resolution that would designate the first Monday in March as “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day” to memorialize those lost to the COVID-19 virus and recognize the suffering of COVID-19 survivors.

More details of the research and survey results can be found here.

About Pandemic Action Network

Pandemic Action Network drives collective action to end the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic. The Network is a robust partnership of over 140 global multi-sector organizations aligned in a belief that every effort made in the fight against COVID-19 should leave a long-term legacy. One where humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

About Klick Consulting
Klick Consulting solves the problems others can’t by leveraging applied sciences and novel thinking to decode healthcare’s gnarliest challenges. The consultancy embraces science at the speed of business with a specific focus on commercial solutions with real-world applications. With its diverse team of medical, behavioral science, data science, engineering, business model, machine learning, and strategic design experts, the multidisciplinary, collaborative group resolves business problems through a scientific lens. Klick Consulting works with companies across the healthcare spectrum, including consumer wellness, pharmaceutical, device manufacturers, insurers, health systems, and providers.

CONTACT:
Courtney Morris (U.S. west coast)
[email protected]

Jaryd Leady (U.S. east coast)
[email protected]

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Two Ways to Take Action for India Now

Gabrielle Fitzgerald, Co-founder, Pandemic Action Network

This weekend’s sunshine and blue skies had what seemed like the entire population of Seattle outside enjoying the early summer weather.  Everywhere you went, people were enjoying the sunshine—it almost felt like COVID-19 was a bad dream that we’d finally woken up from.

But, we know that isn’t true… The past weeks have marked the highest number of COVID-19 cases the world has recorded to date. Since the beginning of this pandemic, COVID-19 has exposed and amplified our inequities. Now, as the U.S. has accelerated vaccination (even for youth) and has preemptively given Americans the chance to take off their masks and enjoy summer, the pandemic rages around the world.

Most notably, India is in the grips of a terrible and all-too-real nightmare. India currently has the highest daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths of any country in the world. Official totals from India’s health ministry report 24.6 million total COVID-19 cases and 274,000 deaths. Daily case counts range between 350,000 to 400,000, with most experts believing these numbers are significantly underplaying the extent of the disease.

Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University, believes deaths caused by COVID-19 in India could be closer to 25,000 to 50,000 per day, and new infections happening each day in India could be between two million and five million.

So, while we should celebrate our progress here in the U.S. and hug our loved ones, we must understand that we are not out of the woods. With variants and the nature of COVID-19 waves, we must understand that only together can we truly end this pandemic for everyone. Now is the time to support the needs of India and other countries who are facing dire consequences from the disease, while also advocating for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and access to life-saving supplies.

On Friday, WHO Director General Tedros spoke of his bittersweet feeling as he received his COVID-19 vaccine.  While he celebrated the “triumph of science,” he lamented the fact that only 0.03% of the vaccine supply is going to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). A New York Times vaccine tracker shows that many countries are yet to administer a single dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, access to basic medical supplies like oxygen remains challenging in many countries, as documented by the COVID Oxygen Needs Tracker. According to Dr. Marc Biot, MSF Director of Operations, “Oxygen is the single most important medicine for severe and critical COVID-19 patients. Yet oxygen supply is often insufficient because infrastructure has been neglected in lower- and middle-income countries for decades.” The crisis in India, now spreading to Nepal and other nearby countries, highlights that oxygen is the most critical medicine for people with severe COVID-19 and 18 months into the pandemic, oxygen supply is under-resourced and LMICs are often the last in line.

Stories in the media and from colleagues in India provide devastating details on the crushing burden faced by hospitals and health care providers, as well as stories of entire families being lost to COVID-19 in a matter of days.

While we have seen donations from governments, businesses, and philanthropies to respond to the humanitarian crises in India, they don’t seem to meet the scale of the problem.  And the breadth of these challenges can make it seem as if there is little an individual can do to help, but individuals and organizations can make a difference in this unprecedented situation.

Here are two ways to take action for India now:

Dasra was established more than 20 years ago to channel funds from philanthropists to small non-governmental organizations across the country. Over this time, they have built the capacity of more than 1,000 organizations to provide services to their communities. With the COVID-19 crisis, they set up the #BacktheFrontLine COVID Emergency Fund to provide immediate resources to 50 of their trusted, high-impact partners who work in local communities providing a range of services to respond to the emergency.

Oxygen for India is a new initiative created by Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. A long-time health researcher currently based in Delhi, Ramanan quickly mobilized a large network of partners to provide reusable oxygen cylinders and 3,000 oxygen concentrators for hospitals in Delhi and Kolkata. This volunteer-led program has utilized local knowledge and relationships with global connections to procure 40,000 oxygen cylinders.  When an emergency hits, a catalytic coalition made up of individuals and organizations who jump in to help can sometimes move quicker than large, established organizations with complex procurement processes and bureaucracies.

These are two of the many organizations who desperately need funding, and both organizations can receive tax deductible donations from U.S. citizens.

While we in the U.S. are reconnecting with family and friends we haven’t seen in a year, please take a moment to think of the desperate need of so many families in India and other countries around the world.

And for those who are celebrating the end of COVID-19 in the U.S., India should be a cautionary tale.  Less than six weeks before the surge of new coronavirus infections, government officials said India was at “the endgame” of the pandemic.  At that time, India had 11,000 cases per day, and an average of about 100 deaths.  Here in the U.S., we still have almost 800 deaths per day.

We are still fighting this pandemic. In today’s interconnected world, COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere.

 

“Honoring Health Care Workers Is Not Enough—We Must Work to Protect Them.” – Recommendations from Resolve to Save Lives for Governments, Health Systems, and Funders

By Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President, Resolve to Save Lives

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in many ways. But in at least one respect, it is tragically similar to other outbreaks of infectious disease: health care workers have not been provided adequate protections and have been hit disproportionately hard.

The World Health Organization estimates at least 30,000 health care workers have already died from COVID-19. Health care workers are so critical to our response to COVID-19 and other epidemics that it’s difficult to imagine what the response would look like without them. Times like this are when we need health care workers most; we depend on them to work intimately with patients, providing both lifesaving care and comfort, even when that means putting their own lives on the line. And although health care workers’ heroism and sacrifices during COVID-19 have been loudly applauded, this well-deserved recognition can hide another truth: these sacrifices—of time, well-being, even their lives—are largely avoidable. By not prioritizing and investing in the safety of health care workers, governments around the world have chosen, once again, words over deeds.

As a nurse, I know firsthand what it is like to be on the frontline of an epidemic without sufficient support. When you don’t have the resources, equipment, policies, training, guidelines or other support you need, it puts you, your patients and your health system at risk.

But there is good news. Protecting health care workers is easier than you think. In a new report, Resolve to Save Lives and partners highlight the risks health care workers face, and break down what governments, NGOs, donors, and advocates can do to start protecting health care workers better today:

  • Put measures proven to prevent and control the spread of infection in place. Health facilities everywhere need clean water, sanitation, and hygiene protocols (also known as WASH standards). Other necessary improvements include increased ventilation, and standards to triage and isolate patients. Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, hand sanitizer, and gowns are also needed.
  • Provide training on how to prevent and control infections for health care workers at all levels. Stopping the spread of infections means following best practices—health care workers need quality training (and frequent updates) on how to keep themselves, and their patients safe.
  • Advocate for laws and policies that support health care workers, in and out of the workplace. Employer-sponsored benefits like paid sick leave and access to mental health services allow health care workers to care for themselves, which makes them better able to care for patients. Burn out is a serious threat to the health workforce, a field which already faces critical shortages around the world. This also means prioritizing health care workers everywhere—not just in wealthy countries—to receive COVID-19 vaccines immediately.
  • Collect data on health care worker infections and protections and use it to improve safety practices. Tracking factors like handwashing, hospital-associated infections, availability of PPE, and adequate water and sanitation in health care facilities can help to identify gaps. International leaders like the World Health Organization should prioritize this issue and use available data to publish regular reports and recommendations for improvement.

Take action to advance these critical recommendations!

Read the full report from Resolve to Save Lives: Protecting Health Care Workers, A Need for Urgent Action

Share on social media: Protecting Health Care Workers Social Toolkit

 


Amanda McClelland is the senior vice-president of the Prevent Epidemics team at Resolve to Save Lives. A registered nurse, she has more than 20 years of experience in primary health care, global health and responding to natural disasters, conflict and epidemics in more than 15 countries including the West Africa Ebola response.

Resolve to Save Lives was created to save 100 million lives from cardiovascular disease and to prevent epidemics. Resolve to Save Lives provides catalytic funding to countries interested in improving epidemic preparedness or their citizens’ heart health.

“The Pandemic Demands That We All Get Political.” – A Message from Incoming UNITE Executive Director Amish Laxmidas

By Amish Laxmidas

The current pandemic has shown us that we all need to be political. While we rely on our policymakers to effectively legislate on clinical and non-clinical COVID-19 response, to allocate smart budgets to stimulus packages for our much-damaged economies, and to use diplomacy to make the COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good, there is another pandemic in the making. And it will severely hit us all, if we don’t seize this moment to take action so that COVID-19 leaves a legacy to better prepare humanity to deal with outbreaks.

It has been a year since the WHO has declared SARS-CoV-2 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Recently, we gathered policymakers and global health experts from around the world to grapple with lessons learned and the political commitments required to take action on COVID-19 while not losing sight of the Sustainable Development Goals in the midst and aftermath of the pandemic. With an eye on the next pandemic, the following key recommendations for policymakers emerged:

  1. Lead the discussion on the creation of national and global systems of alert that put in place a strong mechanism to alert national governments and international institutions of the possibility of an imminent global health threat. Lawmakers should be the frontline of a future pandemic rather than healthcare workers.
  2. Hold national governments accountable. 2020 will always be marked by the year in which science, multilateralism, and diplomacy have prevailed after all. However, vaccine nationalism and unilateralism are on the rise. The only stakeholder that has the power to hold national governments accountable for their international commitments are members of parliament, congresses, and senates. They are the ones who truly represent the most vulnerable communities, and therefore they have a duty to fulfill.
  3. Pandemic preparedness and response demand a global response. UNITE is a platform of dialogue and action in which donor countries and policymakers are united in a shared understanding that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Unless we fully fund COVAX and the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), policymakers from low- and-middle-income countries will continue to witness their constituencies suffering from the virus and consequently the global economy and supply chains for the high-income countries will continue to be broken.
  4. Invest now for the future. There is enough data for policymakers that shows that the cost of response exceeds the cost of preparedness. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board is clear in saying that ‘expenditures for prevention and preparedness are measured in billions of dollars, the cost of a pandemic in trillions. It would take 500 years to spend as much on investing in preparedness as the world is losing due to COVID-19’. Further, the latest World Economic Outlook (January 2021) estimates that the global growth contraction for 2020 to be at -3.5 per cent. Countries like the United States or Germany are expected to grow slower than emerging economies in this year and the following.
  5. Democracy must be the most important determinant for health & well-being for all. The linkage between health and democracy is clear: regular, free, and fair democracies have higher legitimacy (and incentives) to provide resource allocation to their constituencies. On the other side of the spectrum, a recent piece from the British Medical Journal shows that ‘countries in which democracy is being eroded have made less progress on universal health coverage’. The economic downturn, the lack of funding for social welfare state mechanisms, and the rise of vaccine nationalism are key ingredients for the rise of misinformation, mistrust in multilateralism, and lack of confidence in policymakers. Political polarisation toward the current virus has allowed a narrative that leads to easy answers for difficult questions. Political cycles and democratic transition of power should be firm but also safe for its most important stakeholder: The People.

 

Over the last year, everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way and the pandemic is everyone’s business now. But, for policymakers, in particular, it is time to turn lessons learned into actions. Policymakers who had never legislated during a pandemic had to turn to public health experts to know when to reopen schools, museums, restaurants or their borders. Global, national, and regional sovereignty is at stake because we did not act accordingly years ago. Now is the time for policymakers around the globe to prioritise long-term pandemic preparedness for the security and health of our countries. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.


About UNITE

UNITE is an independent, non-profit, global network of current and former parliamentarians. UNITE is committed to ensuring that no life is limited by infectious disease through unified political advocacy. Read the UNITE Global Summit Handbook for policymakers here.

“Vaccines Don’t Deliver Themselves, Health Workers Do.” – Last Mile Health CEO Raj Panjabi at World Bank and IMF Annual Meeting on COVID-19

 

On October 21, 2020, Last Mile Health CEO Dr. Raj Panjabi shared the following remarks at the World Bank Group and IMF Annual Meeting event on “Investing in COVID-19 Vaccines & Primary Health Care Delivery Systems.”

This summer, I came home after testing patients in a COVID-19 clinic where I was forced to reuse the same gown all day. When I got home, I didn’t want to risk infecting my family. So I took off all my clothes before entering the front door. My children were amused, but I was worried.

And I have been even more worried for my fellow health workers around the world. Without masks, community health workers knock on doors in the poorest neighborhoods to find COVID-19 patients. Without face shields, midwives try to deliver babies in community clinics. Without gloves, nurses canoe across rivers to deliver vaccines to families in the rainforest.

We applaud frontline health workers as heroes. We respect them but don’t protect them. Over 7,000 unprotected health workers have died from COVID-19.

We pray for them but don’t pay them. Over $1 trillion of work by women in health care – many as community health workers, nurses and midwives – goes unpaid.

Yes, vaccines can save lives. Yes, vaccines can speed up economic recovery. But no, vaccines will not be a ‘magic bullet’ – because vaccines don’t deliver themselves, health workers do.

We are honored to partner with many of you to invest in paying and protecting community-based health workers. We know this isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. We know every dollar we invest in community health workers returns ten dollars to the economy through saving lives and creating jobs. During this recovery, we should ask not only how our health policies, but also economic initiatives, can seize this opportunity to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time.

When epidemics like smallpox and polio threatened to bring humanity to its knees, community-based health workers did not surrender. They went door-to-door to vaccinate billions around the world. Now, health workers are prepared to go as far as it takes to control COVID-19. The question is, are we prepared to go as far as it takes to invest in them?

 

GPMB to World Leaders: Now Will You Listen?

By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder Pandemic Action Network

 

We warned you, but you did not listen.  That’s the overarching message of the new report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) entitled A World in Disorder.  In their inaugural report one year ago, the GPMB warned of the risk of a high impact, respiratory pathogen that could quickly spread around the globe.  Now in their latest report with a starker cover and a sterner title and narrative―much like parents admonishing their delinquent teenagers―the current and former global health elders that make up the GPMB are wagging their fingers and telling world leaders: you’re out of chances.

This year’s report echoes many of the main messages from last year’s (and from many other expert commissions in recent years), including: national political leadership is paramount; investing in preparedness is not only about saving lives, it’s about protecting economies; the impact―and hence the solutions―of pandemic preparedness go well beyond the health sector, and require a One Health approach; and no one in the world is safe until everyone is safe.

Four recommendations in the report that are particularly welcome:

The UN Secretary General should convene a UN Summit on Global Health Security with heads of state, the WHO Director General, and heads of the International Financial Institutions to forge a new international preparedness and response framework.

Create a new sustainable financing mechanism for global health security that incentivizes nations to prioritize preparedness and recognizes it as a global common good that should not be at the mercy of political and economic cycles.  This echoes the call of many of our Network partners for a Global Health Security Challenge Fund.

Amend the International Health Regulations (IHRs) to improve access to information and increase member state accountability beyond the scope of the current IHRs.  This will be politically fraught but unavoidable to drive the change necessary.

Finance global health R&D as a public good by building on the unprecedented international scientific collaboration around COVID-19 to create a sustainable, coordinated global R&D financing and delivery mechanism to facilitate rapid R&D for epidemic-risk and novel diseases and ensure that every country has an affordable and reliable pathway to secure vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical countermeasures for health emergencies when they need them.

Unfortunately (although not surprisingly), the request for a high-level summit was stripped from the omnibus COVID-19 resolution passed by this year’s UN General Assembly, a casualty of the highly polarized geopolitical environment. But advocates should not be deterred.  Such a summit to prioritize pandemics as a grave global security threat, secure high-level political commitments, and drive a new international consensus and accountability is the right call to action.  The Pandemic Action Network and our partners will be pressing world leaders to convene this summit before the end of 2021―this should happen as soon as possible after the Independent Panel on Preparedness and Response delivers its report to the World Health Assembly next May.  To ensure this results in meaningful change by governments and international institutions, the planning should get underway now.

Does this year’s GPMB report have a better chance than its predecessor to convince policymakers to act?  I am cautiously optimistic, for two reasons. First, its warning is no longer hypothetical. The COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding before our eyes, with no end yet in sight, and it looks likely to get worse before it gets better as we see resurgences around the globe and flu season gets underway.  If there was ever a time that political leaders may be open to do something, this should be it.

Second, we now have a global advocacy effort focused on preparedness to take up these calls for action and hold national and global leaders to account.  GPMB co-chair As Sy, the former Secretary-General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said we need “a global movement of solidarity” committed to inclusion, partnership and compassion to make the world safer from pandemics.  The Pandemic Action Network is dedicated to growing this movement: In a few short months we have brought together more than 40 organizations with global reach to drive collective action to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.  And we are just getting started.

At the GPMB report launch, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “If we do not learn these lessons now and take the steps necessary, when will we? This will not be the last pandemic or global health emergency.  Every day we stand by and do nothing is another day we come closer to the next disaster.  We don’t know what it will be, but we know it will come―and we must prepare.  When it comes to preparedness, our biggest obstacle is ourselves.”

The warnings are crystal clear. So, will leaders listen this time and do what is required to prepare for the next pandemic? The Pandemic Action Network is here to make sure they do.  Join us!

What Happened? Global Citizen and European Commission’s Global Goal: Unite for Our Future

For anyone that missed Saturday’s Global Goal: Unite for our Future, here’s what happened. 

First, sitting down to a pledging summit, you don’t necessarily expect to be entertained, educated and inspired. Saturday’s Summit managed all three–and that was before the concert event started. The two hours were dedicated to short, sharp panel discussions between the video clips of leaders giving pledges as well as featuring some partners. The Summit highlighted the role of the real heroes of this pandemic – the health care workers, the scientists, the front line workers, the researchers working hard to keep us safe, treat COVID-19 patients and find cures for and vaccines against this killer disease. Highlights included Miley Cyrus teaming up with Erna Solberg and some moving conversations about the Black Lives Matter protests across the world. Connections were made about the disproportionate suffering of Black people and other minorities in the pandemic as well as through racism. These racial justice segments deeply enriched the Summit and were very rooted in the moment.

But what did the Summit concretely achieve? Two key things: finance for international aspects of the COVID-19 fight and strong political support for making sure this pandemic is ended globally. On finance, the event raised an astonishing $6.9bn in grants and loans to fight COVID-19. Host Ursula von der Leyen got the afternoon off to an incredible start by announcing a €4.9bn loan from the European Investment Bank for the global recovery. 

Other notable contributions included a €383m pledge from Angela Merkel and smaller contributions from a wide range of countries. Global Citizen helpfully published more details after the Summit. Much of the funding raised will go to the Action for COVID Tools Accelerator, with other funds to the World Food Programme, UNFPA and others to combat the impacts the disease is having on many poor communities. Much-welcomed pledges to the WHO were made by Belgium, Qatar, Sweden and others. Increasing multi-donor support for WHO will be more important than ever to fill the financing gap looming with the recent US announcement of its intent to terminate relations with WHO.

The Pandemic Action Network and others have been calling on the European Commission to work with the EIB to extend much-needed liquidity for the global response. Just as countries (and regional blocs like the EU) have borrowed huge amounts to help their own economies recover, we need the same level of ambition for the global recovery and this is a great start.

Thanks to Global Citizen’s policing of the pledges, every announcement referred to new money (a few leaders included references to money pledged before in their video submissions, but they didn’t count in the total) – a huge leap forward in transparency that will help all of us better track funding and disbursements and save precious time. 

Second, the breadth and depth of global solidarity was on full display. Leader after leader pledged money, but also strong commitments to working together across the world to end this pandemic. President von der Leyen set the tone by calling Saturday a ‘stress test for solidarity’. Jacinda Ardern ended her piece with ‘we are all in this together’ and leaders from France, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the US ambassador to the UN all called for this crisis to be resolved multilaterally. It was also great to hear Johnson & Johnson commit to producing a COVID-19 vaccine on a not-for-profit basis.

The model for Saturday’s Summit changed the way we will do business during this time of COVID, this time of increased poverty, and amid the racial justice protests that have spread across the world to stand up for equality. When President von der Leyen closed the Summit with “we are in this for the long haul, and we will use all of our convening power for the common good” there are many of us that welcome that statement and we will hold her to it! The collective leadership shown on Saturday is needed for the long haul. Now we need to plan how to raise the rest of the emergency funds the world needs as well as the investments needed to make sure this never happens again. We simply cannot afford not to.