It’s time to get serious about the causes of pandemics: UN report

pandemics un

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
  • 60% of known infectious diseases are, too.
  • $100 billion has been lost to zoonotic diseases over the past two decades – not accounting for COVID-19.

More than half a million deaths. Almost 12 million infections. And those are just the confirmed numbers. Plus an estimated $9 trillion in economic stimulus from the world’s governments.

All that in a little over six months since the emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Meanwhile, infections are still being detected, and in some places rising sharply.

Daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths
Daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths
Image: Our World in Data

But despite vast efforts worldwide to address the symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic, the root causes have been largely ignored, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In a new report, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic Diseases and How to Break the Chain of Transmission, the UNEP calls for a “one health strategy” to rebalance the needs of people, the planet and animals.

The report describes how so much of human activity in recent years has laid the foundations for pandemics. Increased urbanization, the rapid expansion of cities and industrialized agriculture are some of the biggest causes for concern. Between them, they have caused unprecedented levels of climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental damage.

“Further outbreaks will emerge unless governments take active measures to prevent other zoonotic diseases from crossing into the human population,” the report warns.

coronavirus, health, COVID19, pandemic

What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.

As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.

To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.

The report reveals that the economic impact of COVID-19 is dominating companies’ risks perceptions.

Companies are invited to join the Forum’s work to help manage the identified emerging risks of COVID-19 across industries to shape a better future. Read the full COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications report here, and our impact story with further information.

Learning from the past

Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans. Rats, bats, monkeys and apes, as well as animals kept as livestock, are among those more likely to spread zoonotic germs. Some of the illnesses and diseases that have been spread this way include Ebola, HIV, SARS and MERS, zika, and the new coronavirus.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment,” she adds.

A ‘one health’ approach

Around 2 million people die each year because of zoonotic diseases. The final statistics for the COVID-19 death toll can only be guessed at, but it is likely 2020 will record a higher-than-average number.

Most of these deaths occur in poorer countries, the UNEP says. It estimates more than $100 billion of economic activity has been lost over the past two decades due to zoonotic diseases.

Death and disease in low- and middle-income countries affect human communities directly through loss of life and indirectly through loss of livelihood. Small-scale farmers may lose valuable livestock, and find themselves locked into cycles of poverty.

“We need to invest in ending the over-exploitation of wildlife and other natural resources, farming sustainably, reversing land degradation and protecting ecosystem health,” Andersen argues. “Part of this process is the urgent adoption of integrated human, animal and environmental health expertise and policy – a One Health approach.”

UNEP’s One Health initiative makes a series of recommendations that can be taken to prevent future outbreaks, including:

  • Conducting more research into zoonotic diseases.
  • Carrying out cost-benefit analyses of interventions that include the societal impacts of disease.
  • Raising awareness of zoonotic diseases.
  • Improving monitoring and regulation practices.
  • Incentivizing sustainable land management practices that promote biodiversity.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

250+ senior claims leaders under one roof, exchanging transformation strategy

More needs to be done to bridge the digital gender divide

Parliament commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz 75 years ago

Upgraded EU visa information database to increase security at external borders

Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

How LA plans to be 1.6°C cooler by 2050

Seize the opportunities of digital technology to improve well-being but also address the risks

Women’s work faces the greatest risk of automation, says new research

Is a deal over EU budget possible today?

‘Global sisterhood’ tells perpetrators ‘time is up’ for pandemic of violence

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “CO2 is not the problem, it is the symptom”, the pilots who crossed the world using solar energy cry out from Davos

“The Belt and Road Initiative should be mutually beneficial for EU and China and every participating country”, Vice-President Papadimoulis of the European Parliament underscores from European Business Summit 2018

Single Market Scoreboard 2020: Member States need to do more to ensure the good functioning of the EU Single Market*

This is what the UK’s major supermarkets say about plastic packaging and the environment

MEPs demand an end to migrant deaths across the Mediterranean Sea

Pakistan’s digital revolution is happening faster than you think

Syria still suffering ‘staggering levels’ of humanitarian need, Security Council hears

From low-earth orbit, ‘envoys’ of humanity join UN space forum

Find unity ‘to halt Libya’s senseless unraveling’, UN envoy urges Security Council

Burnout is a pandemic. Why don’t we talk more about it?

UN chief extends condolences to families of China landslide casualties

Quashing myths on 2019-nCoV for better public management

DR Congo Ebola centre attacks could force retreat against the deadly disease, warns UN health chief

EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement sees the light as Moscow’s reaction once more looms

How speaking ‘parentese’ to your child could make them a faster learner

Five-year low inflation for Eurozone and now Mario has to finally wake up the Germans

Idai disaster: Stranded victims still need rescue from heavy rains as UN scales up response

EU-China: Council authorises signature of the agreement on geographical indications

War in Syria: ‘Carnage’, flouting of rights and international law, must stop: Guterres

Youth Forum welcomes European Commission proposal to speed up financing for youth employment

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Is technology key to improving global health and education, or just an expensive distraction?

Rule of Law: European Commission refers Poland to the Court of Justice to protect judges from political control

What is behind the wide reach of  fake news about Coronavirus?

EU-Vietnam trade agreement enters into force

Why impoverishment and social exclusion grow in the EU; the affluent north also suffers

COVID-19 and nature are linked. So should be the recovery.

Corporate tax remains a key revenue source, despite falling rates worldwide

Residents and visitors to this Dutch neighborhood could share a pool of cars and bikes

Europe might not avoid new partitioning on Ukrainian crisis

Draghi to hold on zero interest rates until he leaves ECB

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

Empathy and human connection: how businesses can respond to COVID-19

UNICEF reports uneven progress in 30 years of child rights treaty

3 important lessons from 20 years of working with social entrepreneurs

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

Coronavirus: Commission Statement on consulting Member States on proposal to further expand State aid Temporary Framework to recapitalisation measures

Europe united in not supporting a US attack on Syria

These are the world’s 10 most competitive economies in 2019

Apple’s tax avoidance scheme remains as creative as their new iPhone

Practicing healthcare: Skills of a good healthcare professional and its effects

The European Sting live from the World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

How global tech companies can champion ethical AI

Parliament wants to suspend EU accession negotiations with Turkey

‘Fire-fighting approach’ to humanitarian aid ‘not sustainable’: Deputy UN chief

This is the critical number that shows when housing breaks down

Horn of Africa: UN chief welcomes Djibouti agreement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia

Guterres appeals for ‘maximum restraint’ over Jammu and Kashmir, as tensions rise

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s