A pandemic is a global disease outbreak that represents a top global catastrophic risk. Influenza (flu), for example, transmits readily and can spread rapidly. Every year, up to 500,000 people die from flu. In years when pandemic flu occurs, the toll can rise well into the millions. The 1918 pandemic flu, the most severe of the four flu pandemics in the past 100 years, infected up to 40 percent of some national populations and killed 50-100 million people. A severe pandemic would harm health, economies, and communities in all countries, but especially in poor and fragile states. Pandemic prevention requires robust public health systems (veterinary and human) that collaborate to stop contagion promptly.

The World Bank supports countries in their efforts to strengthen veterinary and human health systems, and the bridges between them, to prevent pandemics including communication and public awareness; coordination; building system capacity; pandemic planning at community, national, and international levels using whole-of-society approaches; and implementation assistance. This approach is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards.

Since 2005, the World Bank has contributed to the international response to the avian and pandemic influenza threat through a multidimensional approach to disease control and prevention that encompasses human health, animal health, analytical and technical support, disaster risk management, and development communications. This was key to effective, integrated country-led programs.

In 2008, the WHO, OIE, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), coordinated by the World Bank and United Nations System Influenza Coordinator (UNSIC), prepared a global strategy for using "One Health" approaches to reduce health risks at animal-human-environment interfaces. Ministers of health and agriculture from across the world have welcomed this strategy and urged that it be implemented. The World Bank continues to work with these partners and with countries to develop tools for assessing country systems in the veterinary and human public health areas, and the bridges between them.

When these systems meet international standards, they will work to prevent pandemics (such as flu), reduce the costs of ongoing and emerging health crises such as antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases like rabies, and other diseases. In August 2014, the World Bank pledged $200 million to help contain the deadly Ebola virus by providing emergency assistance to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help the West African nations contain the deadly outbreak that has killed more than 887 since the outbreak began in March 2014.


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