Global health experts accuse WHO of ‘egregious failure’ on Ebola

Ebola is known to be one of the most deadly viruses in humans. Almost about 28,000 people were infected and 11,300 lost their lives to an extraordinary Ebola outbreak in West Africa which was declared in March 2014 and is now coming a little under control.

Partially due to the great amount of numbers involved in the epidemic, which occurred in parts of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, infectious disease experts claim that they are learning more every day about Ebola from cases such as Cafferkey’s and thousands more survivors. Ebola experts had stated that in August that around half of Ebola survivors in West Africa were already reporting suffering from chronic problems, including serious joint pain and eye inflammation that can cause blindness.

A team of specialists brought together by Harvard’s Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have pointed out that while the epidemic “engendered acts of outstanding courage and solidarity”, it also caused “immense human suffering, fear and chaos” which went “largely unchecked” by leadership or reliable and rapid institutional responses.


“We need to strengthen core capacities in all countries to detect, report and respond rapidly to small outbreaks in order to prevent them from becoming large-scale emergencies,” said Peter Piot, LSHTM’s director and the chair of the panel.

The panel has come up with ten key reform proposals which focus at preventing from such disasters to occur in the future which will involve growing and endowment of core capacities to cope up with infectious disease outbreaks, taking strong incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions. It also urged the need to the creation of a unified WHO Center with clear authority, sufficient capacity, and powerful lines of accountability for outbreak response, and for a clear, politically-protected standing emergency committee to take on responsibility for declaring emergencies.

The Ebola outbreak has killed almost 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since it started in December 2013. The crisis brought already weak health services to their knees and caused social and economic devastation.

“The most egregious failure was by WHO in the delay in sounding the alarm,” said Ashish K. Jha, HGHI’s director and a leading member of the panel. “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring, and yet it took until August to declare a public health emergency.”

Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said the report had “sobering lessons” which must be learned and “translated into concrete action if we are to avert another crisis”. John Edmunds, who is a specialist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that while the risk of transmission from survivors harboring the virus in their eye fluids and other organs “appears to be very low”, it still warrants attention. “With so many survivors in West Africa now, there is a risk that further outbreaks can be triggered, which is why authorities have to remain very vigilant,” he said.

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