Panel criticises WHO’s slow response to Ebola outbreak
Proposes 10-point plan to improve future reactions
The report of an independent panel set up recently by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the United Kingdom (UK’s) London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to discuss and pick apart the global reaction to the recent Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has criticised the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) slow response even as it recommends a 10-point proposed plan to improve future reactions to similar emergencies.
The group of 20 experts consisting of members drawn from academia, think tanks and civil society, collectively reviewed the worldwide response and combined their findings.
The title of the panel’s report, published in The Lancet, begins: “Will Ebola change the game?”
According to the findings, a greater attention to detail and a stronger, quicker response is not only essential, but also achievable.
The WHO was at the front of the firing line. The think tank puts a large burden of responsibility around its necks: “WHO was aware of the outbreak in spring but did not declare a public health emergency until August.” According to the team, WHO’s delay in sounding the alarm was a pivotal error.
Headed by Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, the panel praised individual acts of courage and solidarity. However, he made it clear that the outbreak also caused: “…immense human suffering, fear and chaos, largely unchecked by high-level political leadership or reliable and rapid institutional responses.”
The report’s 10 recommendations hope to give stronger guidance and bolster global systems in preparation for future outbreaks:
A global strategy should be constructed to fund, observe and maintain each nation’s ability to prevent major outbreaks. It is essential that poorer countries are provided with the funding and support necessary for such strategies;
Incentivize early flagging of outbreaks. On the other side of the coin, countries that are late to report cases should be published publicly;
Create a separately governed WHO department with clear accountability for outbreak response and others.