Absorbing the Lessons of WHO's Ebola Response

An expert panel's report finds WHO does not possess the capacity or organizational culture to deliver a full emergency public response.

An assessment panel's report in July 2015 offered a sobering analysis of the World Health Organization's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which at press time continued in Guinea. WHO reported 11,235 people have died of the disease as of June 28, 2015.

The panel concluded that Member States have for the most part failed to implement core capacities, particularly for infectious disease surveillance and data gathering, that are required by the International Health Regulations, and that by instituting travel bans and other measures not called for by WHO, nearly one-quarter of the Member States helped to cause a significant delay in the declaration of the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by WHO. "The Panel considers this situation, in which the global community does not take seriously its obligations under the International Health Regulations (2005)—a legally binding document—to be untenable," the report's executive summary states.

The six panelists (one was Dr. Julio Frenk, M.D., MPH, Ph.D., who served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health from Jan. 1, 2009 to Aug. 15, 2015) worked fast, meeting for the first time at the end of March 2015 and delivering this report scarcely three months later. They had visited the three most affected countries and met with many organizations involved in the Ebola response.

The report concludes WHO "should be the lead emergency response agency" but adds, "The Panel considers that WHO does not currently possess the capacity or organizational culture to deliver a full emergency public response" and lacks sufficient dedicated funding to fulfill that mission.

WHO responded to the report by thanking the panelists and endorsing their recommendations, which included creating a contingency fund to ensure funding is available for an initial response and also establishing an intermediate level of alert in order to sound the alarm earlier than can be done with a full Public Health Emergency of International Concern declaration.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

Download Center

  • The Ultimate Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping

    When it comes to OSHA recordkeeping, there are always questions regarding the requirements and in and outs. This guide is here to help!

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • Online Safety Training Buyer's Guide

    Thinking of getting an online safety training solution at work but not sure how to evaluate different solutions and find the one that's best for your company? Use this handy buyer's guide to learn the basics of selecting online safety training and how to use it at your workplace.

  • SDS Software Buyer's Guide

    Whether this is your first time shopping for online SDS software or you’re upgrading from a legacy solution, this guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that works best for you and your company.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Risk matrices come in many different shapes and sizes. Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively.

  • Vector Solutions

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January February 2022

    January February 2022

    Featuring:

    • FACILITY SAFETY
      Industrial Facility Safety from the Loading Dock to the Plant Interior
    • COMBUSTIBLE DUST
      Tiny Particles: Big Booms
    • OIL & GAS
      Creating a Culture of Safety
    • PPE: HAND PROTECTION
      Innovative, Comfortable Hand Protection Option for Workers
    View This Issue