WHO admits to botching efforts to stop Ebola spread

  • AP, London
  • Updated: Oct 18, 2014 15:57 IST

An internal report revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) bungled efforts to halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The WHO draft report pointed to serious errors by an agency designated as the international community's leader in coordinating response to outbreaks of disease.


Read: Obama appoints Ron Klain as 'Ebola Czar'

The document- a timeline of the outbreak- found thay WHO missed chances to prevent Ebola from spreading soon after it was first diagnosed in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in March this year, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.

Its own experts failed to grasp that traditional infectious disease containment methods wouldn't work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems, the report found.

The disease has killed more than 4,500 people in Africa.

"Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall," WHO said in the report, obtained by The Associated Press. "A perfect storm was brewing, ready to burst open in full force."

The agency's own bureaucracy was part of the problem, the report found. It pointed out that the heads of its country offices in Africa are "politically motivated appointments" made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency's chief in Geneva, Dr Margaret Chan.

After WHO declared Ebola an international health emergency in August, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon stepped in and had the United Nations take overall responsibility for fighting and eliminating the virus, among other things setting up an emergency response mission based in Ghana.

Read: Nations step up Ebola checks as UN appeals for funds

Dr Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, agreed that WHO acted far too slowly.

"It's the regional office in Africa that's the front line," said Piot, interviewed at his office in London. "And they didn't do anything. That office is really not competent."

WHO declined to comment on the document, which was not issued publicly, and said that Chan would be unavailable for an interview with the AP.

She did tell Bloomberg News that she "was not fully informed of the evolution of the outbreak. We responded, but our response may not have matched the scale of the outbreak and the complexity of the outbreak."

Meanwhile, President Obama named Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to vice president Joe Biden, as the administration's point man on Ebola.

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