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MSF: Ebola report slams slow WHO response

March 23, 2015

Doctors Without Borders has published a report on the Ebola outbreak which has claimed over 10,000 lives. The frontline aid agency has condemned the slow global response, particularly from the World Health Organization.

Image: Amandine Colin/Ärzte ohne Grenzen

A year on from the start of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, Doctors Without Borders published a report slamming the international community's response to the crisis, particularly that of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Doctors Without Borders - known by its French acronym MSF - also detailed the "indescribable horror" faced by its staff as they were forced to turn away the sick due to a lack of resources and could only spend one minute per patient because of the great number of cases flooding their facilities.

The MSF report accuses the WHO, charged with a leading role on global health emergencies, of being far too slow in taking action and of taking on a distanced, administrative role instead of a dominant medical one. It further accuses the organization of only declaring "a public health emergency of international concern" once Western health workers had contracted the disease while working in the worst-hit countries in West Africa.

Meetings instead of action

According to MSF, there was a meeting in Geneva at the end of June last year between the WHO, MSF, and similar agencies, at which the aid group asked for an immediate response in Liberia that did not fully materialize until July, by which time a second wave of the disease had struck.

Of the more than 10,000 Ebola deaths to date, more than 4,200 of them were in Liberia.

"Meetings happened. Action didn't," Marie-Christine Ferir, MSF emergency coordinator, said in the report.

"All the elements that led to the outbreak's resurgence in June were also present in March, but the analysis, recognition and willingness to assume responsibility were not," the report read. Therefore it fell to MSF to bear the brunt of the response in the early months, despite only having 40 staff members with Ebola experience before the spread of the virus began.

The report also criticizes the governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea, the other two hardest-hit countries, for refusing to admit the scale of the epidemic and putting "needless obstacles" in the path of MSF teams.

es/lw (AFP, epd)