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Author Picture By - Jan 13, 2015

Photo credit: Mandy Sugrue

Photo credit: Mandy Sugrue

The United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) continues to aggressively fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including looking at how it can address structural constraints to improve its response to outbreaks.

This week the WHO’s secretariat released a series of papers leading up to its Executive Board Special Ebola response meeting on January 25, including one paper that focuses on how to prepare for and respond to future large-scale outbreaks and emergencies.  So how should WHO be structured in order to be prepared FOR and respond to future health outbreak emergencies? Here are the highlights of those recommendations:

  •  Strengthen emergency risk management: The PAPER recommends developing WHO’s operational expertise by improving decision making during emergency response and ensuring access to affected peoples, regardless of the cause of the emergency.
  • Expand WHO’s capacities, networks, and partnerships. This is the largest section of the list. It includes: increasing cultural expertise through anthropologists who understand cultural norms and customs when working in-country; increasing dedicated staff with the appropriate range of skills positioned at all levels of the organization to properly implement ongoing emergency relief programs; creating coordination mechanisms for working with other UN agencies, funds, and programs, external partners, and the private sector to strengthen response efforts; and enhancing the organization’s capacity to adequately secure and deliver vital supplies in a timely manner during emergencies.
  • Dedicate funding for emergency response. At the heart of WHO’s capacity to respond to all-hazard emergencies with a public health impact is adequate, sustained, and dedicated financing for its emergency operations. Funding should be appropriately allocated to support the day-to-day functioning of emergency response needs.

These secretariat recommendations and more will be discussed by 34 country representatives on January 25th.  Recommendations on how to adapt WHO to a chainging global health landscape will likely be the result.  During that meeting, the executive board will also review the current state of the Ebola response and make recommendations on further steps to stop the Ebola epidemic.