Newspaper article International New York Times

W.H.O. to Overhaul Epidemic Response

Newspaper article International New York Times

W.H.O. to Overhaul Epidemic Response

Article excerpt

The World Health Organization acknowledged that it was not prepared to deal with the Ebola outbreak, and it vowed to overhaul the way it handles epidemics.

After criticism that it was slow and ineffective in the crucial early months of the Ebola crisis, the World Health Organization has said that it will overhaul the way it deals with epidemics.

"The world, including W.H.O., is ill prepared for a large and sustained disease outbreak," the organization said in a statement on Monday by Dr. Margaret Chan, its director general, and by its deputy director and regional directors.

Amid an overall contraction of the organization's budget in recent years, there have been sharp cuts to its outbreak and emergency response departments. In the statement, Dr. Chan and her colleagues said that trend would be reversed.

"We commit to expanding our core staff working on diseases with outbreak potential and health emergencies, so we will have skilled staff always available," the statement said. A new reserve force of certified staff members will be created to tackle crises, the statement said, making use of a new outbreak contingency fund and a new system for managing the organization's efforts in the field.

The statement said the health organization would also try to build up more expertise in community engagement, "informed by anthropology and other social sciences."

More than 10,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have died of Ebola in the current outbreak, which has infected more than 25,000 people since December 2013, according to the agency. Critics have said the W.H.O. was slow to mobilize, had difficulty with coordination and ran into significant problems with public mistrust in the affected countries.

The statement said the organization favored stronger international health regulations that would require member countries to prepare for outbreaks, and a new system to independently verify whether countries were in compliance. …

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