We Must Not Neglect Conflict Regions: WHO Chief on Ebola Outbreak

In a conversation with The Guardian, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), called Congo’s Ebola outbreak, which is the second worst outbreak in the world, a ‘global wake-up call’ for the international community.

The risk of such diseases spreading from conflict areas is alarmingly high, and it is time the world stops neglecting these regions.

He said,

"The problem is that (donors) refrain from paying until there is fear and panic. That has to change. We should not be funding by huge amounts when we panic, but should be funding to avoid panic." - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Thus, what lacked was a more “day-to-day funding for preparedness to combat serious epidemics before they become regional or international threats.”

Ahead of a new call for funding for the response to the Ebola outbreak, he said that it could be controlled in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the short-term, but it could also return, considering the political instability in the areas at the centre of the outbreak — North Kivu and Iruri.

"There are some people who say we need to declare the outbreak as an (emergency) to mobilise resources. That’s really wrong. Resources should be available to prevent needing to declare a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ (PHEIC). Preparedness is the solution, not firefighting." - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Currently, the outbreak is marked as a ‘category three emergency’, the WHO’s highest level before a declaration as PHEIC.

The WHO chief believed that designating it as a PHEIC could further complicate the response of health teams on the ground.

Also Read: Congo’s Ebola Outbreak Now 2nd Largest in History: WHO 

Responding to the criticism the organisation has received for responding to the Congo outbreak, he said,

"I’m not saying we cannot learn lessons and there was no shortfall. But we have never had conditions like this in other places where we have had Ebola." - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“We’re not investing in preparedness to detect outbreaks quickly. We are investing after the problem comes and knocks on our door when it’s too late. So how can we move on from that mindset? We have to be as strong as the weakest link and we need to invest in strengthening the systems of the weakest link”, he said.

Also Read: Ebola Outbreak: Death Toll in Congo Crosses 1000

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