With nearly 9,000 killed, WHO Chief calls for reform in light of Ebola outbreak

Tuesday, 27 January 2015 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan called for reform of the organization on Sunday (January 25), as member states held talks on the WHO’s delay in facing the deadly Ebola epidemic. “The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies, shortcomings in this organization’s administrative, managerial and technical infrastructures,” she said in her introductory remarks. “The Ebola outbreak points to the need for urgent change in three main areas: to rebuild and strengthen national and international emergency preparedness and response, to address the way new medical products are brought to market, and to strengthen the way WHO operates during emergencies,” she added.     The special session in Geneva was called by member states seeking reforms amid strong criticism of the United Nations agency’s response to the outbreak that began a year ago in West Africa. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the United Nations agency’s response has been facing strong criticism, especially from NGOs like Doctors Without Borders, who were among the first to raise alarm regarding the importance of the epidemic and the urgent resources that needed to be deployed. Dr. Chan also said that vaccines and drugs must be brought to the market more speedily so that the world is not caught “empty-handed” when a severe disease causes an epidemic. The Director-General also called the rich countries to help weaker ones build stronger health systems, emphasising the fact that our world was interconnected.     “Well-functioning health systems are not a luxury. Well-functioning health systems are the cushion that keeps sudden shocks from reverberating throughout the fabric that holds societies together, ripping them apart”, she insisted. To date, 21,724 cases of Ebola have been reported in nine countries, including 8,641 deaths, according to WHO latest figures. Some $4 billion has been spent to try to halt its spread and WHO requires a further $1 billion this year, according to the U.N. Special envoy for Ebola, David Nabarro. Reacting to WHO announcements, the Secretary-General of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) International, Jerome Oberreit said that it was “very little, very late”.