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UN Agencies Unite for Next Pandemic

FILE: A health worker prepares a dose of vaccine during the start of the vaccination campaign against the COVID-19 at the Health Ministry in Dakar, Senegal, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021

The UN organizations for human and animal health, food and the environment issued their first joint action plan on Monday aimed at detecting and tackling the next potential pandemic.

The so-called One Health Joint Plan of Action "aims to create a framework to integrate systems and capacity so that we can collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats," the agencies said.

The plan was launched by three United Nations agencies -- the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) -- plus the World Organization for Animal Health.

Shaken by the Covid-19, the four agencies teamed up to combat emerging health threats by targeting the links between ecosystem degradation, food system failures, infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

The pandemic revealed "vulnerabilities at all levels", according to the joint plan.

"This initiative seeks to improve the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment."

"Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than Covid-19, unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to our relationship with the environment and how we tackle disease emergence, spillovers and spread."

The four agencies hope the plan can address the underlying drivers of disease emergence and ill health, improve disease prevention and preparedness and mitigate the impacts of health risks and threats.

Three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, the WHO said when announcing the partnership back in May 2021.

The plan focuses on expanding capacities on emerging and re-emerging zoonotic epidemics; endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical and vector-borne diseases; food safety risks; antimicrobial resistance; and on the environment.

The joint document said there was an "urgent need to reassess and transform the interactions between humans, animals, plants and the environment they share".

The plan said economic development had often come at the expense of ecosystems, a healthy environment and animal welfare.

The action plan will be officially launched on Tuesday at the World Health Summit in Berlin.