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(Bloomberg) -- The World Health Organization proposed creating a special fund to respond to outbreaks such as Ebola and the establishment of a global health emergency workforce after the organization acknowledged mis-steps in its response to the epidemic.
The WHO’s executive board agreed “in principle” to establish a contingency fund in a draft resolution at a meeting in Geneva Sunday. Director General Margaret Chan should take “immediate steps” to establish a public-health reserve workforce that can be promptly deployed in response to health emergencies, the board said.
The WHO was too slow to respond to the Ebola outbreak, which it says has killed 8,675 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The epidemic highlights the need for “urgent change” at the United Nations agency, Chan said in opening remarks to the board meeting.
The WHO “did not have the systems and capacities in place to respond to a health emergency that was both severe and sustained,” Chan said.
While the WHO is “indispensable” to ensure global health security, significant change is needed, Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the executive board’s meeting.
“We have to be frank: too many times the technical is overruled by the political in WHO, and we have to reverse that,” Frieden said.
As new Ebola infections decline, the world should not “pack up too early” or risk the epidemic persisting, Sally Davies, the U.K.’s chief medical officer, said at the meeting.
“We all stand shamed at every level across the world for too slow a response, and initially too little,” Davies said. “Today is the day we must move from words to action. We must all commit to ensuring we never face this shame again.”
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