In case you haven’t heard, in 2014 the world’s largest Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa. The WHO has been frequently criticized for their lack of response to this outbreak. As the only international health organization made up of member countries (governments), it was the only organization with the capacity to pull resources from everywhere to respond, and that response was lacking. So at this year’s World Health Assembly, which is the decision making body of the 194 countries that are part of the WHO, discussions around Ebola obviously occurred.
Some of these reforms are designed to alter the structure of the WHO so responses can happen faster and more effectively.The WHO will put out clear control and command mechanisms across all 3 levels of the organization: headquarter, regional, and country offices. The WHO is also using an all-hazards emergency approach to establish an emergency program. This program will focus on adaptability, flexibility, accountability, humanitarian principles, predictability, timeliness and country ownership. There is also a provision for a $100 million contingency fund to help with in-field operations for 3 months.
The WHO has also taken a longer view approach to handling Ebola. There have been efforts by the WHO to help with Ebola vaccine development and trials, Ebola diagnostics, and drugs for Ebola. There is also the focus to help countries with their own Ebola response by strengthening health systems.
No one wants another Ebola, or similar, outbreak, which is viewed by many as inevitable. As humans continue to alter our environment and create more connected communities, the next big outbreak is a when, not if. Hopefully the world has learned the consequences of an underfunded and disorganized WHO, so it doesn’t happen again.