As the Ebola epidemic is slowly dying down, the World Health Organization was prompted to create a $100 million fund that would guarantee that no other major crisis will catch the U.N. agency off guard again.
The WHO overall and director-general Margaret Chan in particular have been under heavy criticism for what is considered to have been a slow reaction to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak.
The crisis started back in December 2013 in Guinea, but it was not until August 2014 that the agency considered it an international public health emergency.
Chan started the WHO’s annual conference on Monday by declaring the WHO will put effort into ensuring the organization will never have to face another similar situation unprepared, understaffed and underfunded.
She added that changes in the agency will be completed by December. Chan, who has been in charge of the WHO ever since January 2007, said the agency has was not prepared to handle such a fast-spreading epidemic. Latest reports showed that Ebola took a heavy death toll: more than 11,000 people died in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
Chan was asked whether or not she is considering resigning from her leading function, but she answered that a responsible leader does not leave the helm when times are tough and mistakes are made; instead, she will learn from what happened, and adjust the organization’s activity accordingly.
In support of Chan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given a speech addressed to the WHO’s 194 member states explaining that the agency should integrate and delegate management in order to offer a quicker response when crises like the “Ebola catastrophe” arise.
Merkel explained that much of the disaster caused by Ebola could have been prevented by reacting far earlier. Next time, a more organized command structure should be able to fight a health crisis like Ebola.
With WHO being the only global agency with universal political legitimacy on international health crises, the importance of distributing its efforts more efficient rests so much heavier on its shoulders.
Liberia is the first among the hard-hit countries to become officially free of Ebola after 42-days without any new reported cases. Guinea and Sierra Leone seem to be approaching the end of the epidemic as well, with only 9 new confirmed cases in the last week. According to WHO, this is the lowest figures reported this year.
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