The following remarks by Mr. Mutahi Kagwe, the Cabinet Secretary for Health (Kenya), were given at the Global Peace Leadership Africa Virtual Conference Opening Plenary on July 30, 2020. The views and opinions expressed belong solely to the author.
Ladies and gentlemen
All protocols observed
Pandemics, health emergencies, and weak health systems not only cost lives but pose some of the greatest risks to the global economy and security faced today. History informs us what happened with the Spanish flu in 1918 where more than 50 million people died. The SARS outbreak cost the world economy around 60 billion US dollars. We have also seen bird flu, MERS, and Zika in action. Cholera and Yellow Fever are back in full force. Now the whole world is grappling with COVID-19 which is hurting economies, weakening health systems, and countries are experiencing loss of citizen lives.
We are informed that the WHO detects around 3000 signals a month but the world actually knows very few of them. We do not know where the next global pandemic will occur, we don’t know when it will occur, but it will be costly in terms of lives and economies.
With approximately 3 billion travelers through air transport every year, the global spread of any new pathogen would occur in hours. Other than untold human suffering, the economic losses would be measured in trillions, including the losses of tourism, trade, consumer confidence as well as political problems and challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen, the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and Government. Universal health coverage and health security are two sides of the same coin. The most robust health systems are those built on the principle of universal coverage, with all citizens on the same, equitable footing. Improved access to health care and strengthened health systems provide a strong defense against emerging threats, whether natural or man-made. No one should have to choose between health care and impoverishment.
Ladies and gentlemen, because pandemics, health emergencies, and weak health systems not only cost lives but represent some of the greatest risks to the economy and security that we face today; strong and resilient health systems are required. Towards this end I looking forward to the outcomes of this conference.
As I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to emphasize that disease outbreaks could pose significant challenges to global security by undermining national economies, international trade and travel, public health and safety, and the trust of the populace in its own government, potentially leading to ineffective governance or fragile state collapse.
This conference could not be more timely and I am honored to be part of it.