Ebola: WHO Addresses Failings

Admitting that its response to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak was seriously flawed, WHO leadership—including Director-General Margaret Chan, the deputy director-general and regional directors—published a statement addressing lessons learned and next steps late last week.

Detailing 8 key lessons learned, specific steps to improve its response capacity, and advice for world leaders, WHO explains how it will try to prevent another crisis. Here are just a few takeaways:

The Lessons:
• Greater surge capacity enables a flexible response
• Health gains – fewer child deaths, malaria control, maternal mortality – are fragile and all too easily reversed in the face of an outbreak
• Respect for culture, as in promoting safe and respectful funeral and burial practices, is key

Next Steps for WHO:
• Create a Global Health Emergency Workforce
• Establish a contingency fund
• Strengthen framework of international health regulations

Another point from the WHO statement that hasn’t gotten a lot of airtime: “We have been reminded that market-based systems do not deliver on commodities for neglected diseases – endemic nor epidemic. Incentives are needed to encourage the development of new medical products for diseases that disproportionately affect the poor.”


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