Experts Say WHO Bungled Ebola Response In West Africa

Experts Say WHO Bungled Ebola Response In West Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) failed to respond quickly to the Ebola outbreak in three West African countries last year and led to thousands of avoidable death in the region, an independent panel of experts has said.

According to the report, failing by WHO to act quickly played a key role in the Ebola disaster that killed over 11,000 people mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone over the last year and half.

“The most egregious failure was by WHO in the delay in sounding the alarm,” Prof. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute in the US who co-chaired the panel, said in a statement.

“People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring .. and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous,” it added.

The panel of 20 experts have called for sweeping reforms to ensure there is no repeat of the catastrophe. The suggested reforms include creation of a new center dedicated to emergency outbreak response and an independent commission that will hold the agency accountable for its actions.

WHO was too slow to recognize the problem of Ebola outbreak presented and slow to declare it a public health emergency. The expert say this meant that health workers on the ground lacked resources for equipment as basic as body bags.

The Ebola Outbreak caused global panic and hurt tourism in many African countries like South Africa and Kenya, which are miles away from the epicenter of the crisis.

International flights were also affected, with many global carriers suspending travels to the affected West African countries.

The panel of experts calls for the capacity of small countries, such as those in west Africa, to detect and then respond to disease outbreaks to be strengthened, and for them to get financial support, in line with a World Bank proposal.

“We need to strengthen core capacities in all countries to detect, report and respond rapidly to small outbreaks, in order to prevent them from becoming large-scale emergencies,” Prof. Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who also co-chaired the panel, said.

“Major reform of national and global systems to respond to epidemics are not only feasible, but also essential, so that we do not witness such depths of suffering, death and social and economic havoc in future epidemics.

“The Aids pandemic put global health on the world’s agenda. The Ebola crisis in west Africa should now be an equal game-changer for how the world prevents and responds to epidemics.”