The World Health Organization’s chief admitted yesterday that the UN agency had been caught napping on Ebola, saying it should serve as a lesson to avoid similar mistakes in future.
Opening a rare emergency session to review the fight against the epidemic, WHO head Margaret Chan said despite turning the corner there was no room for complacency, warning that progress could very easily be undone.
Chan acknowledged blistering criticism that the WHO’s response to the epidemic had been slow and shoddy.
“This was West Africa’s first experience with the virus and it delivered some horrific shocks and surprises. The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us,” she told delegates.
“Ebola is a tragedy that has taught the world, including WHO, many lessons also about how to prevent similar events in the future,” she said.
“The volatile microbial world will always deliver surprises,” she said. “Never again should the world be caught by surprise, unprepared.”
Chan told reporters that “the priority in 2015 is to help countries get the Ebola rate down to zero.”
The worst outbreak of the virus in history has seen nearly 9,000 deaths in a year — almost all in the three West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — and sparked a major health scare worldwide.