Major changes are needed to protect the most vulnerable people from the next global emergency, according to a report from the Red Cross that says three-quarters of people in the UK are worried about the next potential pandemic.
A survey for the charity found that 75% of people were concerned about the global impact of a future health emergency such as a pandemic, 71% about the impact of a personal health crisis, and 61% that climate change would have an impact on their lives. Three-quarters (76%) said the UK must address underlying inequalities exposed by Covid.
The Red Cross said the poll – the first to gauge people’s feelings about potential future events in light of the coronavirus emergency – offered a window of opportunity for changes to ensure British society was made more resilient and better able to withstand global crises.
It said the pandemic had exposed many inequalities in UK society. Its report contains a blueprint to tackle these inequalities before any future global emergency. Three urgent humanitarian issues – disasters and emergencies, health inequalities and displacement and migration – are the focus of the report.
The report calls for:
Gaps in health and social care to be eliminated
Key humanitarian needs to be met in emergencies.
Local welfare assistance schemes to use a cash-first approach to help ensure people facing serious financial hardship can afford essentials such as food, toiletries and warm clothes.
The provision of safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum and the right for all to a safe home and freedom from destitution.
International law to be upheld, and principled humanitarian action. It says the UK should ensure that those most in need are put first.
The report is accompanied by a series of essays from writers across the political spectrum, describing what they see as the challenges and opportunities for policy change.
Contributors include Patricia Hewitt, the former Labour health secretary; Nimco Ali, a campaigner to end FGM; and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative work and pensions secretary. Their essays cover topics ranging from investing in young people’s mental health and tackling loneliness, to global climate action, ending modern slavery and defining Britain’s place on the world stage.
Mike Adamson, the chief executive at British Red Cross, said: “People are worried about big-picture challenges, including the prospect of another global health emergency and climate change, and the direct impact those events could have on their lives. As we look towards recovery, we are faced with a unique opportunity to learn and build towards a more resilient future, ensuring no one is left behind.”
Opinium carried out the research for the report, interviewing 2,003 UK adults aged 18 and over between 27 and 29 April 2021.