Ebola: Again, Global Health Experts Berate WHO | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Ebola: Again, Global Health Experts Berate WHO

Posted: Nov 23, 2015 at 10:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Global health experts have, once again, giving the World Health Organisation (WHO) hard knocks over its failure to sound the alarm on Ebola until months into West Africa’s outbreak.

At a specialist panel convened by Harvard’s Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Monday, the experts described the laxity of the global health body in this regard as an “egregious failure” which they said added to the enormous suffering and death toll.

In a report by Reuters, the experts said while the epidemic “engendered acts of outstanding courage and solidarity”, it also caused “immense human suffering, fear and chaos” which went “largely unchecked” by leadership or reliable and rapid institutional responses.

Reviewing the global response to the epidemic which swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the panel said such failures should not be allowed to happen again, saying major reform is urgently needed to prevent future pandemics.

“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,” Peter Piot, LSHTM’s director and the chair of the panel, was quoted by Reuters.

The panel made 10 key reform proposals aimed at preventing future such catastrophes, including developing and investing core capacities to handle infectious disease outbreaks, strengthening incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions.

It also called for the creation of a unified WHO Center with clear responsibility, adequate capacity, and strong lines of accountability for outbreak response, and for a transparent, politically-protected standing emergency committee to take on responsibility for declaring emergencies.

So far, the Ebola epidemic has killed at least 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since it began in December 2013, bringing already weak health systems to their knees, according to Reuters.