There has been a call for fundamental changes in the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as a call for funding in order to enable to body deal with outbreaks like Ebola.
In a critical report, a UN-appointed panel of independent experts said the WHO was too slow in declaring a global public health emergency on August 8, 2014, 5 months after the outbreak had taken hold.
The panel further said the WHO “tends to adopt a reactive, rather than a proactive approach to emergencies” and failed to act on the warnings of experienced staff on the ground.
It further said in the early months of the crisis, Director-General Margaret Chan and senior staff failed to show the “independent and courageous decision-making” required to deal with governments of the countries affected.
The panel also criticised the WHO’s early engagement with local communities about what could be done to reduce the spread of Ebola, and its failure to provide authoritative information on what was happening.
According to the panel, in Guinea, communities are still not convinced of their own responsibilities with regard to declaring contact with infected patients and ensuring victims are safely buried, making it difficult to eliminate the virus.
To this end, the panel urged WHO to make fundamental changes in leadership, stressing that the transformation must be carried out urgently.
The panel, however, declined to call for any resignations at the WHO even as it revealed that the global health body's purchasing power had fallen by one third since 2000.
The panel was headed by Barbara Stocking, the former head of development agency Oxfam and her panel recommended that regular member state contributions be increased by 5% and called for a separate $100 million emergency contingency fund.
It said WHO should set up a new emergency centre to respond to and manage global crises, a move that was preferable to creating a dedicated UN mission for each emergency, as occurred with Ebola.
In addition, the experts welcomed plans to train more rapid response staff.