Beenish Pervaiz, a graduate student in International Policy Studies at Stanford University, just finished a summer internship at the Nuclear Threat Initiative through Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI). Beenish assisted with projects across the organization but worked most closely with Dr. Beth Cameron, senior director of Global Biological Policy and Programs at NTI.
Below is a blog post Beenish wrote for FSI, adapted for Atomic Pulse.
The opportunity to travel 7,000 miles from Pakistan to study at one of the world’s best universities has been a life-changing experience that has further empowered me to work on international security issues. This summer, as part of a fellowship with Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI), I worked in Washington, DC with the Biosecurity Program team at Nuclear Threat Initiative. Before this internship, my work typically centered on traditional security threats such as nuclear proliferation or terrorism. Through NTI, I discovered that global security encompasses far more. The field of global health security has tremendous potential to save human lives and bring about impactful change. According to a statistic from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of countries are still not properly prepared to address pandemic threats, and most are from the developing world, which is the most vulnerable to these outbreaks.
Here’s why I strongly believe the developing world should make health security a priority:
1) We are self-medicating ourselves into getting more sick
In many parts of the developing world, the ability to purchase antibiotics without a prescription is the norm, and consumers enjoy the short-term benefits of using antibiotics. Unfortunately, this trend is becoming a global crisis as the vast majority of antibiotics people use are gradually losing effectiveness against infectious diseases. According to one review of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by the United Kingdom, 10 million lives and $100 trillion are projected to be lost by 2050 as a result of AMR.
The bitter truth is that the burden of increased infections will fall on the developing world as many developing countries lack the proper diagnostic capabilities and infrastructure to address these concerns.
2) Global pandemics are getting faster and more furious
Following the devastating Ebola crisis in 2014, developing countries were left wondering if they have the capacity to survive something like it in the future. I had the opportunity to experience first-hand the United Nation’s frantic effort to set up the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). Every day, representatives from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea would warn of the climbing death tolls. While the international response eventually picked up, it was slow to come.
There are multiple lessons to be drawn. The first is that while international support is necessary, it is not sufficient. In the long term, there is a need to build healthcare capacity in developing nations and that is a process that must be led by the countries themselves. The effort can only be truly impactful if they have national policy makers and change-makers in both the health and security ministries who can proactively maintain momentum. As in the case of Ebola, if neighboring countries impose a blanket travel ban, it is challenging for help to come in from the outside. Hence, change must begin at home.