'Damning' Report: WHO 'Unfit' in Emergencies

It lacks 'capacity and culture,' bungled Ebola response
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2015 10:44 AM CDT
'Damning' Report: WHO 'Unfit' in Emergencies
This May 20, 2013, file photo shows WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan in Geneva.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott, File)

An independent report commissioned by the World Health Organization and deemed "damning" by the BBC has found the WHO lacks the "capacity and culture" to handle global health emergencies. The report notes the organization delayed too long in responding to the Ebola crisis—something the WHO has admitted in the past—and is in serious need of an overhaul. It adds the organization was hindered by "a hope that the crisis could be managed by good diplomacy." Specifically, it only declared Ebola a public health emergency in August 2014, seven months after the virus began spreading, for fear that West African governments would see the move as a "hostile act," reports the AP.

The report, which applauds the WHO for researching new Ebola treatments, also notes earlier messages about the severity of the outbreak either "did not reach senior leaders or senior leaders did not recognize their significance." It calls for the creation of a Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response and a $100 million special outbreak response fund. The WHO says it was "already moving forward on some of the panel's recommendations, including the development of the global health emergency workforce and the contingency fund to ensure the necessary resources are available to mount an initial response." However, some experts say little has changed since a similar report criticized WHO's response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic. (Read more World Health Organization stories.)

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