Financial sector has key role in pandemic planning, World Bank president saysFinancial sector has key role in pandemic planning, World Bank president says TOKYO—Investing in the worlds capacity to respond to epidemics "is really investing in the resilience of the global economic system," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said here today in advance of an international meeting in Japan.Kim met reporters in Tokyo ahead of a U.N. disaster risk reduction conference that begins tomorrow in Sendai. Last October, in the wake of what he called a “late, inadequate, and slow” global response to the Ebola outbreak, Kim floated the idea of a pandemic emergency facility. Today he expanded on the idea, including why the World Bank should be involved.He said natural disasters and disease outbreaks have a devastating impact on economic growth, with the countries and citizens least able to afford it bearing the heaviest burden. The World Bank has estimated that the Ebola epidemic is taking a $1.6 billion bite out of the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. "Prior to the start of the epidemic, these three countries had some of the highest [economic] growth rates in the world; now their rates are expected to be near or below zero," he said.The World Bank committed more than $500 million to address the crisis, but the money only started flowing 8 months after the outbreak began, he said. "We need to respond much more quickly to the next outbreak," he said. And that requires better planning.His proposed pandemic emergency facility would build on lessons learned from the Ebola crisis. "The World Health Organization [WHO] has to be at the center of the response," said Kim, a physician and anthropologist who once headed WHOs HIV/AIDS department. He said WHOs response capacity has deteriorated in recent years and should be restored. "If we had enough money at WHO I think we could have put out the Ebola epidemic much earlier," he said.Kim said the response to bigger epidemics, which he considers inevitable, will require coordination among a number of U.N. agencies. For example, the World Food Programme might contribute its expertise in moving supplies, while the United Nations Children’s Fund could apply its knowledge of working with grassroots health networks. But those roles need to be defined in advance, he said. He would also like to see the creation of a large reserve corps of doctors and nurses for emergency duty and periodic drills "to keep ourselves prepared for when big events happen," he said.Planning for a major health emergency should involve financial and business players from both the private and public sectors, he noted, as epidemics can wreak havoc with economic activity. Bringing insurance companies to the table will help focus attention on the economic risks of disease outbreaks, he argued, and pharmaceutical, transport, and communications companies all have vital roles to play in responding to a disease outbreak.Kim said he had a hard time gaining the attention of finance ministers and bank officials when he was working in public health. But now that he’s president of the World Bank, he said, “they have to listen to me."