The WHO and its lethargic response to the Ebola epidemic has come for scathing attack from an independent panel of experts who called for “deep and substantial” changes in the working and response of the WHO in such crisis situation.
The expert panel is still unable to comprehend after studying the WHO response to the Ebola epidemic as to what went wrong and how the world body was not aware of warnings.
The scourge of Ebola has devoured 11,000 people since the first case was detected in rural Guinea in March 2014. Even the WHO memo was striking because the world body felt that the outbreak was unusual.
The experts wrote in their first report issued Monday, “It is still unclear to the panel why early warnings, approximately from May through to July 2014, did not result in an effective and adequate response. Although WHO drew attention to the ‘unprecedented outbreak’ at a press conference in April 2014, this was not followed by international mobilization and a consistent communication strategy.”
Earlier Associated Press obtained internal documents and it revealed that WHO resisted declaring Ebola epidemic as a public health emergency until months after staff pressed for raising the alarm. The documents revealed that crass economic compulsions led to a delay in the declaration of a health emergency.
Firstly the epidemic happened in countries where mining interests were involved and would have angered the countries. It would also cause alarm among Muslims who were making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
The emergency was finally declared on August 8 after nearly thousand people had succumbed to the Ebola virus.
Meanwhile WHO though admitting that it was slow in acting, it defended its actions and said that the virus’ spread was unprecedented and blames factors including lack of resources and intelligence from the field.
The emergency was eventually declared on August 8, when nearly 1,000 people had already died from Ebola. WHO’s Ebola response leader, Dr. Bruce Aylward, was not sure if an earlier declaration would have made any difference.
Ebola is still spreading in the West African nations of Guinea and Sierra Leone. The only silver lining in a bleak scenario is Liberia which was declared Ebola –Free on Saturday.