From the Bangkok Post [editorial]:
Two disturbing reports have just been released by different authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Their parallel release is a coincidence, but authorities in nations around the world should be both interested and concerned - and so should their citizens.
Although they approach the problem differently, senior experts in both countries warn that there will be a terrible disaster, count on it, and the US, Britain and the United Nations all are woefully short of being able to cope.
The UK report, written on the evidence of an investigation by the upper House of Lords, should give the most concern. It centred mainly on the likelihood of a worldwide pandemic of influenza or similar disease. The report says flatly there will be such an outbreak, although of course it cannot say when or what form the disease might take. It could kill 50 million and take a terrible toll on trade, travel and society which would last years if not much longer.
The fear of influenza is based on the spread of avian flu through, especially, eastern Asia including Thailand. Some experts argue that the H5N1 virus is not likely to ever be especially dangerous to humans worldwide. But they miss the point that influenza in general is the most likely source of any global illness. It is prudent to prepare for a human outbreak of avian flu. It is absolutely vital to be better prepared for an influenza pandemic.
It should an eye-opener to most that Britain and the United States are undoubtedly among the world's best-prepared nations for natural or man-made disaster. If they are unready and unrehearsed, how about the rest of us?
That there will be a medical pandemic is probably beyond debate. That the nations of the world will again be found wanting in caring for the sick and halting the spread of the disease, is perturbing. That even the WHO is doubted in ability and authority is worrying.
More planning and preparations for disaster management is needed. The tsunami of 2004 proved that even a highly local disaster could quickly overwhelm local response. At one time, Thailand was seriously preparing for an influenza epidemic. The waning bird flu seemed to end such concern. The government has effectively downgraded disaster preparedness officials to almost a non-entity. That may prove a terrible error when - not if - illness spreads globally as during previous flu pandemics.
The author's frustration and dismay over Thailand's pandemic preparations is clearly communicated in this piece.
Connecting dots of concern expressed by two members of the G8 points out the rarely discussed. Countries that traditionally provide assistance when disaster strikes another will be mired in their own troubles with nothing left over to offer up, irrespective of humanitarian need or tragedy should a severe pandemic happen.