The recent and the second worst Ebola outbreak is a “global wake-up call” for the world community about the increasing risks of outbreaks of diseases from conflict hit areas that are neglected by global power, warned the head of the World Health Organization.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that money is only put in by the international community for redress measures when there is “fear and panic” in the headlines. He said that the global organization found it difficult to finance its day to day operations for preparedness to preventing the outbreak of the serious epidemics form becoming a threat regionally or internationally.
“The problem is that [donors] refrain from paying until there is fear and panic. That has to change. We should not be funding by huge amounts when we panic, but should be funding to avoid panic,” he said while speaking to The Guardian newspaper just before a new call for funding for the response to the Ebola outbreak.
International health systems in an increasingly globalised world were only as “strong as the weakest link” he said while referring to the outcome of the of Spanish influenza which caused the death of millions after the end of World War I.
While assuring that it was possible to contain the most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the short term of the right security conditions were implemented, there is always a chance that it could resurface in the North Kivu and Iruri provinces of the country because of political instability. These are the two provinces at the core of the most recent outbreak.
The current outbreak was not in such a position that it should be called a a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), Tedros also reiterated.
“I know we can finish this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros, former foreign minister of Ethiopia, who became director general of the UN global health organisation in 2017. “But at the same time it can come back because all the [political and security] conditions remain the same.
“There are some people who say we need to declare the outbreak as an [emergency] to mobilise resources. That’s really wrong. Resources should be available to prevent needing to declare a PHEIC. Preparedness is the solution, not firefighting.”
The recent Ebola outbreak has been identified to be a “category three emergency” which is the highest level before a declaration of PHEIC according to the rules of the WHO. Last month, three cases crossed the border briefly into Uganda.
“PHEIC only shows there is a very high risk of international spread, which is not the case based on the criteria. But if you take whether Ebola is an emergency in DRC or not, it is – it’s actually the highest level of emergency,” Tedros said.
There has been criticism of the WHO in its handling of the DRC outbreak which includes its indecision of declaring the outbreak as a global health emergency which, according to critics, could have prompted a larger number of donor countries to offer funds and other resources.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)