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Merkel plugs global epidemics plan at WHO conference

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed an international scheme to deal with future epidemics. She was speaking at a WHO conference on the lessons learned from the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

"The Ebola disaster in West Africa has made it painfully obvious how urgently we need to act on an international level in times of crisis," she said at the opening day of the annual assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

"The struggle against Ebola will only be won once there are no new cases," she said, admitting that the lesson learned is that "we should have reacted earlier."

The

WHO has been criticized for its slow reaction

to the epidemic, which claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the first cases became public in rural Guinea in March 2014.

Liberia has recently been declared free

of Ebola.

Merkel said Germany would use its G7 presidency this year to make the fight against Ebola and tropical diseases that can be linked to poverty and that have been neglected a priority.

She also said that measures against increasing immunity against antibiotics should be at the top of the global health agenda.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has warned of a "massive food crisis" in Sierra Leone, saying that seeds and food were running out because the quarantine measures imposed during the Ebola outbreak have caused agricultural activity to grind to a halt.

Scientists and politicians from 190 countries are taking part in the WHO conference in Geneva. The assembly is the WHO's highest decision-making body.

ng/kms (AP, dpa)

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