WHO is getting hammered for its Ebola response

WHO is getting hammered for its Ebola response

Critics are piling on WHO for its allegedly slow response to the Ebola outbreak.

An independent panel of experts slammed the World Health Organization for how it handled the recent outbreak of Ebola in Africa, and critics say the organization needs to make big changes.

The panel had 10 recommendations to make WHO better prepared for the next global epidemic, but some are doubtful that the organization is capable of making meaningful changes, according to a WBUR editorial.

The recommendations suggest that the WHO should support countries with technical advice as well as create a dedicated center for responding to outbreaks.

Critics said that WHO was slow to release information on the Ebola information, and even Doctors Without Borders criticized the organization for its poor response, the editorial pointed out, arguing that the problem is that WHO is built poorly to balance politics and medicine.

The independent panel was created by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The recommendations are quite extensive and would require a pretty significant overhaul for WHO, which many believe is not likely to happen.

One big problem, the editorial posits, is that the WHO works for member states rather than the health of individuals. That means it is unwilling to go toe-to-toe with governments that don’t cooperate, because it is afraid that those governments may toss WHO and its officials out of the country. That is why the recommendation that the WHO reprimand countries that fail to quickly report epidemics a tall order.

The benefit of having this access is that it can have good vaccination campaigns and control tuberculosis in countries like North Korea or Syria, but the bad news is that it can’t get tough when member states act badly during an epidemic.

The panel’s 10 recommendations are below:

1. Develop a global strategy to invest in, monitor and sustain national core capacities

2. Strengthen incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions

3. Create a unified WHO Center with clear responsibility, adequate capacity, and strong lines of accountability for outbreak response

4. Broaden responsibility for emergency declarations to a transparent, politically-protected Standing Emergency Committee

5. Institutionalise accountability through an independent commission for disease outbreak prevention and response

6. Develop a framework of rules to enable, govern and ensure access to the benefits of research

7. Establish a global fund to finance, accelerate and prioritise R&D

8. Sustain high-level political attention through a Global Health Committee of the Security Council

9. A new deal for a more focused, appropriately-financed WHO

10. Good governance of WHO through decisive, timebound reform and assertive leadership

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