WHO official urges improved global preparedness

The Ebola virus
The Ebola virus | Courtesy of the CDC

During a special session of the United Nations' (UN) Executive Board on Ebola on Sunday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan stressed the need for improved global preparedness measures.

During the meeting, the executive board recognized the outbreak is receding but agreed continuing response efforts show a weakness in global preparedness. In speaking with the board, Chan identified three areas that need improvement that were highlighted in this outbreak.

“To rebuild and strengthen national and international emergency preparedness and response, to address the way new medical products are brought to market, and to strengthen the way WHO operates during emergencies,” Chan said.

On behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Special Envoy for Ebola David Nabarro echoed the sentiment of learning from this outbreak. He also stressed the need for member states to support the WHO in ending this outbreak and preventing future ones.

Chan praised ongoing efforts in bringing the outbreak to a close in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, although she said bringing the number of new infections to zero would be a difficult task. According to the WHO, there have been nearly 22,000 infections and over 8,600 fatalities over the course of this outbreak.

“This is one of the biggest lessons the world learned last year,” Chan said. “Well-functioning health systems are not a luxury. Well-functioning health systems are the cushion that keeps sudden shocks from reverberating throughout the fabric that holds societies together, ripping them apart. The volatile microbial world will always deliver surprises. Never again should the world be caught by surprise, unprepared.”

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