It’s not the first time that the WHO has been criticized for it’s poor response to the Ebola Crisis. But, now, things have gotten a lot worse forcing an independent panel of experts to call for a complete change in leadership and organization at the top. A 28-page report blatantly blamed politics and bureaucracy for the mismanaged response. “There seems to have been a hope that the crisis could be managed by good diplomacy rather than by scaling up emergency action,” they wrote.
The experts, which were led by Dame Barbara Stocking, president of a college in Britain and former chief executive of the charity Oxfam – called for the WHO to establish a new division with new staff and a new director that would coordinate emergency preparation, coordination and response. That was one of the only bright spots in the report for the WHO.
In recent months, other organizations and individuals have considered the idea of transferring leadership for handling such crucial crises to a U.N. group or creating a separate, independent agency for health emergencies from scratch, but the panel rejected these proposals opting instead for the less extreme recommendation of fundamental changes within the WHO.
However, the panel emphasized that the new division, which they called the WHO Centre for Health Emergency Preparedness and Response, must not just duplicate and merge the outbreak and humanitarian work the organization is now responsible for.
“A simple merger will not suffice–it will need new organizational structures and procedures,” they wrote.
The report urged the WHO to advertise for the head of the center — a strategic thinker “able to make sound decisions quickly, and to discern when to move from a situation of normal readiness and alert to rapid response in the field” — immediately.
The changes are needed urgently, the panel said, calling this a “defining moment for the health of the global community.”
“The world simply cannot afford another period of inaction until the next health crisis,” they wrote.
On June 13, the head of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres warned that the Ebola epidemic could just as easily be rearing its head again in West Africa. Despite warnings, the U.N. failed to declare an international public health emergency on time – leading to a delay in medical resources to the sick.
“We’ve been disappointed by the World Health Assembly and again by the G7 in terms of their recommendations,” Liu, the international president of MSF, told Reuters. She was indicating towards the WHO meeting which failed to declare a public health emergency.