With Worst of the Ebola Crisis Behind, Can the WHO Adapt?

With Worst of the Ebola Crisis Behind, Can the WHO Adapt?
Health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in an area where a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, June 30, 2015 (AP photo by Abbas Dulleh).

On Tuesday an independent panel of experts released a scathing report criticizing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The panel, led by the former head of Oxfam, Dame Barbara Stocking, said that politics and bureaucracy were to blame for the WHO’s mismanaged response and called for the WHO to create a new division to coordinate emergency responses.

The report comes days after Liberia, which was previously believed to be Ebola-free, confirmed two new cases of the disease, prompting fears of a resurgence.

While often harsh, the panel’s findings are unsurprising. As Jeremy Youde wrote in World Politics Review last February, the WHO’s response has been questioned since the beginning of the outbreak in early 2014:

[The WHO] has come under significant criticism for its slow response to the outbreak, unwieldy structure and lack of resources. The organization even took the extraordinary step of holding a special meeting of its Executive Board to discuss its Ebola response on Jan. 25. In her speech to the board, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding in front of us.”

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