Experts have claimed that the Ebola crisis in west Africa could have been averted if governments and health agencies had acted on the recommendations of a 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) Commission on global health emergencies.
According to Professor Lawrence Gostin, Faculty Director of the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, USA, the crisis calls for renewed international commitment to a health systems contingency fund to prevent another infectious disease crisis, together with long-term funding for enduring health systems development.
Gostin added that if the real reasons the outbreak turned into a tragedy of these proportions are human resource shortages and fragile health systems, the solution is to fix these inherent structural deficiencies.
The 2011 WHO Review Committee proposed a Global Health Emergency Workforce, backed by a US 100 million dollars contingency fund, which would have enabled the rapid initial response needed to contain the Ebola outbreak, but the Commission was not acted upon by WHO, lacking sufficient financial commitment from governments in high-income countries.
Gostin added that the west African Ebola epidemic could spark a badly needed global course correction that would favour strong health infrastructure. Sustainable funding scalable to needs for enduring health systems is a wise and affordable investment. It is in all states' interests to contain health hazards that may eventually travel to their shores. But beyond self-interest are the imperatives of health and social justice-a humanitarian response that would work, now and for the future.
The study was published in The Lancet.