‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’: Global alliance formed to take on Covid-19

Pandemic Action Network formed to combat current global crisis and future pandemics

An international coalition of hundreds of organisations, scientists and philanthropists has announced its intention to “ignite a global movement to help accelerate an end to the Covid-19 pandemic” and enhance preparedness to stop future pandemics.

The Pandemic Action Network (Pan) said it will seek policy changes and increased support and resources to ensure countries are better prepared “to prevent, detect and respond to pandemic threats”.

The initiative includes a “For Humankind” resource, to promote accurate information to ensure people around the world understand what they need to do to protect themselves and their communities from Covid-19.

Their first initiative under that heading is a major public health campaign called #MaskingForAFriend, encouraging people to join their call to action “by spreading the word about wearing homemade masks, and sharing a selfie image or video wearing a cloth face covering during essential errands or making masks” through that hashtag.


“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the extreme fragility in the ability of the world’s systems to respond to a new and highly infectious pathogen,” the alliance said in a statement.

“While public health experts have been making this case for years, there has not been complementary policy, advocacy and communications support to create the political will necessary for policy and funding changes to enhance our preparedness,” it added.

Irish communications specialist David Kyne of Evoke Kyne, a co-founder of Pan, said it was set up because of the absence of a global advocacy and policy group focused on preparedness for a pandemic.

There was also a communications gap, he added, between what public health bodies were saying and what was reaching the public – though this was less of an issue in Ireland.

Mr Kyne, who has worked on previous global public health campaigns on ebola and malaria, said they would be using “influencer” messaging but would follow health advice in particular jurisdictions and that of WHO.

Given social distancing was not possible in many parts of the world; widespread rumours about Covid-19 and many people not having access to TVs, communications campaigns such as the one on wearing of masks needed “to get in at community level”.

Pan is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; other major philanthropists, international NGOs and private industry including vaccine developers Johnson & Johnson.

Its key objectives are:

– Ensure full funding for the global and country-level Covid-19 response and future pandemic preparedness;

– Strengthen the global health security architecture for more effective pandemic preparedness and response;

– Accelerate research, development and access to innovations to combat Covid-19 and emerging pandemic threats.

A core principle was “no one is safe until everyone is safe”, meaning an equitable global lens was crucial for a successful response, Pan added.

"West Africa's devastating ebola epidemic showed us that the world must come together to ensure countries are prepared for outbreaks, including that health workers on the frontlines have the gear and training they need to keep safe and keep serving," said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia and WHO goodwill ambassador.

“Decisive political leadership and global cooperation will determine if we win the war against this invisible enemy, which is why we need Pan,” she added.

It is putting in place an international expert advisory panel including Prof Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – a co-discoverer of the Ebola virus and founding executive director of UNAIDS.

Captain of South Africa's rugby team Siya Kolisi kicked off the #MaskingForAFriend campaign. His focus is on securing behaviour change in townships in his country, where wearing a homemade mask is needed given challenges with social distancing.

“I am proud to use my platform to share accurate health information with as many people as possible to help stop this virus in its tracks,” he said. He called on other sports captains and leaders to model good protective behaviour – “whether it be staying home, washing hands or covering your face. We need to do it ‘For Humankind’.”

Mr Kyne said he hoped sports captains in Ireland would row in with the campaign.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times