EBOLA INTERIM ASSESSMENT PANEL
First Report of the Panel
During the special session of the Executive Board on Ebola in January 2015, Member States adopted a resolution calling for an interim assessment, by a panel of outside independent experts, on all aspects of WHO’s response in the Ebola outbreak.1 In response to the resolution, the DirectorGeneral established a panel to undertake this work in early March 2015. Since this time, the Panel has reviewed significant numbers of reports and met with key people within and outside WHO, including senior WHO staff, representatives of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, international nongovernmental organizations and Member States. By the time the Health Assembly meets, the Panel will also have carried out visits to the severely affected countries and to the Regional Office for Africa. This report has been prepared in advance of the visits, and does not yet encompass the information gained by the Panel in the countries themselves or at the regional level. The final report will incorporate lessons learnt, including what has and has not worked in the field.
The Panel is committed to adhering closely to its mandate and terms of reference,2 beginning with an assessment of the roles and responsibilities of WHO at the three levels of the Organization.
However, it should be underscored that the Organization consists not only of the Secretariat, but also the Member States. Member States are responsible for their own actions and statements, especially with respect to their obligations under the International Health Regulations (2005). They have key decision-making roles in relation to WHO priorities, resources and the Secretariat’s mandate. Many of these responsibilities go beyond the remit of Ministers of Health; other government ministries and Heads of State also bear responsibilities, especially in times of crisis. The Panel therefore welcomes the establishment of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Global Response to Health Crises to examine these broader issues.
The Panel considers this a defining moment for the work of WHO. Together, the WHO leadership and the Member States need to take determined action to address the challenges at hand. “Business as usual” or “more of the same” is not an option. Although there may be responsibility on the part of individuals for the way in which the response to the Ebola outbreak has been handled, it is necessary to identify and correct the structural causes of any shortcomings. In doing so, it must be recognized that there is an increasingly complex nexus of health, humanitarian and security crises that requires the United Nations system to find new approaches that go beyond institutional silos.
The Panel is acutely aware that the Ebola crisis began and continues in local communities.
These communities have been indelibly marked by fear and sorrow and by great sacrifice. The toll on their own health workers has been extraordinarily high, and local people are also integral to ensuring safe and dignified burials, staffing treatment centres, and performing contact tracing. Many international workers, including WHO staff at all three levels of the Organization, have likewise put themselves at great risk for the good of the global community. The panel acknowledges with deep gratitude their work and generosity of spirit, and that of the huge number of people working in their own countries to bring this crisis to an end.