WHO sets up $100 million fund to deal with future crises like Ebola

WHO admits it failed to respond adequately to the Ebola virus and sets up a $100 million dollar fund to be better prepared next time.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (MAY 18, 2015) (REUTERS) – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday (May 18) it never wants to be caught unprepared again after the onslaught of the Ebola virus with the director general admitting in Geneva that “the buck stops with me”.

The WHO and its Director General Margaret Chan have come under fire for being slow to respond to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic. The virus hit Guinea first in December 2013 but it was not declared an international public health emergency until August 2014.

Chan addressed the WHO assembly on Monday to announce a new $100 million contingency fund that would provide the organization with sufficient cash to respond quickly and efficiently next time around.

“With the support of Member States, I am establishing a $100 million dollar contingency fund, financed by flexible voluntary contributions, to ensure we have the necessary resources available to immediately mount an initial response,” Chan said.

“I am making the following five changes: I am creating a unified WHO programme for health emergencies accountable to me; I am establishing clear performance metrics for the programme, built on partnerships with other responders; I am establishing a global health emergency workforce, and I am strengthening our core and surge capacity of trained emergency response staff; I am developing new business procedures to facilitate a rapid and effective response; And I have proposed option for new $100 million dollar contingency fund,” she added.

The latest WHO summary published on Monday (May 18) said there were at least 11,117 Ebola deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with more than 27,000 people said to have contracted it across the three countries.

After addressing the assembly Chan admitted responsibility for the organization’s failure saying the WHO had been overwhelmed.

“I do not, I do not ever again want to see this organization faced with a situation it is not prepared, staffed, funded, or administratively set up to change and manage all these changes,” Chan said.

Chan is a former health director of Hong Kong at the helm of the WHO since Jan. 2007.

She was asked by a reporter whether she had considered resigning or had been asked to.

She replied: “The buck stops with me. As a responsible leader, you need to learn the lessons and make the right changes”.

Guinea has seen a spate of new Ebola cases due to transmissions at funerals, a worrying sign as it seeks to stamp out the epidemic, a health official said on Friday (May 15).

Liberia became the first of the three hardest-hit countries to be declared free of the virus this month, completing a 42-day period without a case.

Guinea and Sierra Leone reported nine confirmed cases in the week to 10 May, the lowest weekly total this year, WHO says.