UN: Ebola Review Panel tasks WHO on global public heath response

New York, US (PANA) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed the report issued
on Tuesday by a panel of experts tasked to look into the agency's response to the unprecedented 2014 Ebola outbreak, which said that WHO needs to re-establish its pre-eminence as the guardian of global public health and that this will require it to make significant changes throughout, with strong political and financial support from member states.

A UN statement quoted the Report of the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel as stating: "The
panel firmly believes that this is a defining moment not only for WHO and the global health
emergency response but also for the governance of the entire global health system."

It noted that, "the challenges raised in this report are critical to the delivery of the proposed
Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote
well-being for all age."

The statement recalled that at WHO Executive Board's special session on Ebola in January
2015, member states adopted a resolution, which called for an assessment by a panel of
independent experts on all aspects of WHO's response in the Ebola outbreak.

The outbreak had affected more than 27,500 people, including over 11,000 deaths, mostly
in West Africa.

In response to the resolution, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan established a
panel to undertake this work.

It said the UN health agency welcomed the report and outlined its initial efforts towards
implementation of recommendations that examined: the International Health Regulations,
WHO's health emergency response capacity and WHO's role and cooperation with the
wider health and humanitarian systems.

It said the experts concluded that "the Ebola crisis not only exposed organizational
failings in the functioning of WHO, but it also demonstrated shortcomings in the
International Health Regulations (2005)."

"If the world is to successfully manage the health threats, especially infectious
diseases that can affect us all, then the Regulations need to be strengthened, and
had the recommendations for revision made in 2011 by the Review Committee in
relation to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 been implemented, the global community would
have been in a far better position to face the Ebola crisis," the panel stated.

It said that "the world simply cannot afford another period of inaction until
the next health crisis."

On WHO's emergency response capacity, the report said: "Having reviewed all
the options, the panel has concluded that WHO should be the lead health
emergency response agency, but this requires that a number of organizational
and financial issues be addressed urgently."

It said that, "currently, less than 25 per cent of WHO's programme budget comes
from assessed contributions, the remainder from voluntary funds and there are
no core funds for emergency response."

"At the 2016 Executive Board and World Health Assembly meetings, member
states should reconsider moving from the policy of zero nominal growth to
increase assessed contributions by 5 per cent," the panel recommended.

"And in order to ensure delivery of effective preparedness and response capacity,
member states and partners should contribute immediately to the contingency
fund in support of outbreak response, with a target capitalization of US$100 million
fully funded by voluntary contributions," it said.

On WHO's role and cooperation with the wider health and humanitarian systems,
the panel concluded that during the Ebola crisis, the engagement of the wider
humanitarian system came very late in the response.

The report said that "the panel was surprised that many donors, governments,
the United Nations and international non-governmental organizations understood
only either the health emergency or the humanitarian system."

The experts noted that it was clear that by September 2014 it was essential that
highly visible action be taken to generate political and financial support from the
global community, but "while the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response
(UNMEER) catalysed this high-level political and financial support, it was less
successful in coordinating the effort in affected countries."

The panel concluded that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) and other UN agencies should have been engaged more strongly
and earlier in the crisis.

It also recommended, "the UN Secretary-General should consider when a
crisis escalates to a point where it poses a high-level global health threat
requiring greater political and financial engagement, and the appointment of
a Special Representative or a Special Envoy with a political/strategic role to
provide greater political and financial engagement, but would not recommend
the establishment of a full United Nations mission."

Meanwhile, in response to the panel's conclusions, WHO said that next month,
it will convene a Review Committee of the International Health Regulations,
where member states can discuss the recommendations of the panel, including
the idea of establishing an intermediate level of alert to sound an alarm earlier
than a full Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

On WHO's health emergency response capacity, the agency said that it is
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.

Going forward, WHO said the current Ebola outbreak is still ongoing and
improved methods of working are incorporated into the response as they
are developed.

"But it will take many more months of continued hard work to end the
outbreak and to prevent it from spreading to other countries," WHO added.
-0-  PANA   AA/AR  7July2015

07 july 2015 17:36:06

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