NUSA DUA: G20 health and finance ministers launched a $1.4-billion fund on Sunday to tackle the next global pandemic ahead of the bloc’s leaders gathering for a summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali but the host’s president said it was not enough.

The 24-nation fund is viewed as one of the early global outcomes of the summit next week where little progress is expected on the Ukraine crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin not in attendance.

It was launched at a news conference on Sunday opened by Indonesian President Joko Widodo and addressed by World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and World Bank President David Malpass.

“The G20 agrees to build a pandemic fund to prevent and prepare for a pandemic. Donors from G20 and non-G20 members, as well as philanthropic organisations, have contributed to the funds. But it is not enough,” Widodo said in a video address.

He said $31 billion was required to tackle the next global pandemic.

“We must ensure community resilience in the face of a pandemic. A pandemic can no longer take lives and destroy the joints of the global economy.” The United States has contributed $450 million to the fund, nearly a third of the total.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the joint fund was an example of what the G20 can do to tackle global problems. “I am proud of what we have accomplished. I think the steps we have taken this year will help deliver on a vision of a healthier and more responsive global health architecture,” she said.

Indonesia was at one point an epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic when a wave of Delta strain cases hit the country in mid-2021.

Its health system was overwhelmed by the number of infections and Jakarta produced its own homegrown vaccine as lower income countries became frustrated at more developed nations hoarding inoculations for their citizens. The fund’s major donors include the United States, Britain, India, China, France, Canada, Australia and Japan.

“We meet at a time of multiple crises... this new dedicated fund is an important tool that will support low and middle income countries to be better prepared for global health crises,” said Malpass, who urged more countries to commit to the fund.

“The pandemic fund can help make the world safer.” Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told a news conference. Saudi Arabia was expected to contribute to the fund, without specifying how much.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2022

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