Following the mismanagement of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, international health organizations pledge to reform crisis response.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 24 outbreaks since the endemic disease was first identified over 40 years ago.
The 2014 outbreak in West Africa was the third spread of the 20th century. The effects ravaged the ill-prepared communities of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Over 28,000 cases were reported, nearing a death total of over 11,000.
The West African region had not encountered an Ebola outbreak before 2014. Inexperience, along with inadequate local health facilities and distrust among the local community aided in the severity of the outbreak in Ghana.
The international community’s response also contributed to the haphazard spread throughout the region and eventually the world.
A panel of 19 global health and hygiene experts attributed the 11,300 West African deaths as an “egregious failure” of the WHO and a clear indication of the necessity to implement serious healthcare response reform.
The director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), Ashish Jha, cited the WHO’s intentionally delayed response as negligible, stating that, “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring, and yet it took until August to declare a public health emergency.”
The WHO acknowledged the need for healthcare reform during the April 16, 2015 press release — citing the importance of increased capacity, communication, coordination, sensitivity and community/culture in future crisis response efforts. The WHO, however, was not the only international body cited for response failure.
The Heritage Foundation found the United States government crisis response efforts as internally lackluster and externally reactionary.
In order to prevent an outbreak of this magnitude, the WHO has committed to implement comprehensive health care response reforms. The corrections include: expanding staff members; creating a Global Health Emergency Workforce; establishing a contingency fund and increasing community engagement.
The mismanagement during the Ebola outbreak highlights the need for action beyond the healthcare response reform. Foreign assistance before and after a health crisis is the most effective way to avoid international health crises.
– Adam George