The Kenema Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone. Photo / Red Cross
The Ebola crisis claimed lives needlessly because the World Health
Organisation was scared to sound the alarm after being criticised for
causing panic during the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, health experts have
An independent panel of 19 specialists has called for
sweeping reforms to ensure there is no repeat of the catastrophe, which
killed more than 11,000 people.
Their main criticism was the WHO’s failure to respond quickly when the disease first emerged in Guinea.
memos seen by the panel showed that the WHO was reluctant to declare a
public health emergency because it did not want to upset African
dictators and feared it would be criticised if the outbreak turned out
to be mild, like the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
“The long-delayed and
problematic international response to the outbreak resulted in needless
suffering and death, social and economic havoc, and a loss of confidence
in national and global institutions,” the panel concluded.
Professor Peter Piot, the director of the London School
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, co-chair of the panel, said: “We need to
strengthen core capacities in all countries to detect, report and
respond rapidly to small outbreaks, in order to prevent them from
becoming large-scale emergencies.”
Meanwhile, Ebola has returned
to Liberia, with three cases confirmed in one family, two months after
the country was declared free of the virus – for the second time – and
days after the last country affected in West Africa, Guinea, cleared its