Report Finds WHO Unfit To Confront Public Health Emergencies Like Ebola

Robbie Gonzalez 09/05/2017. 13 comments
Epidemiology Who Medicine Health Ebola

In the wake of West Africa’s Ebola crisis, an independent panel assembled at the request of World Health Organization director Margaret Chan has judged the WHO unfit “to deliver a full emergency public health response,” finding that it has neither “the capacity [nor] organizational culture” to do so.

The Ebola Interim Assessment Panel, led by fomer Oxfam head Dame Barbara Stocking, published the report Tuesday. The panel stated that the recent Ebola crisis exposed failings at every level of the WHO, and concluded that the organization “must undergo significant transformation in order to better perform its core function of protecting global health.” To that end, the panel provided 21 recommendations, most of which hinge on bolstering the WHO’s financial resources, encouraging countries to communicate health risks to the organization, and improving coordination across its various levels.

The panel’s dissatisfaction rings especially clear in recommendation 14, which scans more like a clarion call than a line item in a long list of suggestions. It reads: “WHO must re-establish itself as the authoritative body communicating on health emergencies. It must fulfill its role in rapidly, fully and accurately informing governments and publics across the world about the extent and severity of an outbreak.”

The list of hard lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak continues to grow. As Joanne Liu, president of the international arm of Doctors without Borders, noted earlier today, the question now is “how will this translate into real action on the ground in future outbreaks?”

[Report of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel via NYT]


Contact the author at rtgonzalez@io9.com and @rtg0nzalez. Top image: A mother brings her sick child for treatment at Redemption Hospital, formerly an Ebola holding center, on February 2, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia, where the Ebola epidemic has claimed at least 3,700 lives. But as Ebola wanes, a new threat is brewing: Unvaccinated children, vulnerable to highly contagious measles infections, could spark a devastating secondary epidemic | Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

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