BBC: Ebola crisis: UN defends response after WHO report

Ebola crisis: UN defends response after WHO report
BBC News – 18 October 2014 Last updated at 00:38 ET
UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro: “We are putting in place the foundations of a very powerful response”

A senior UN health official has defended international moves to tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
David Nabarro, UN system coordinator for Ebola, told the BBC that plans were on course to provide 4,000 beds for Ebola patients by next month, compared with 300 at the end of August.

His comments follow a damning internal report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It said the UN agency had missed the chance to stop the disease spreading.

An internal document said those involved “failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall”, according to the Associated Press.

Separately, sources close to the WHO told Bloomberg of multiple failures in the outbreak’s early stages.

In the worst affected countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the Ebola virus has now killed 4,546 people with cases of infection numbering 9,191, according to the latest WHO figures.

Mr Nabarro was responding to criticism of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which said that pledges of deployment and aid had not yet had an impact on the epidemic.

He told the BBC that he had seen a big increase in the international response over the past two months.

“I am absolutely certain that when we look at the history, that this effort that has been put in place will have been shown to have had an impact, though I will accept that we probably won’t see a reduction in the outbreak curve until the end of the year.

“We are putting in place the foundations of a very powerful response.”

The reports have brought into focus the way the WHO dealt with the outbreak in the months after it received the first reports of Ebola cases in Guinea in March.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned in April that the outbreak was out of control – something disputed by the WHO at the time.

“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the document obtained by AP says.

The draft report – a timeline of the outbreak – also reportedly says that experts should have realised that traditional methods of containing infectious disease would not work in a region with porous borders and poor health systems.

Among the problems cited in the information obtained by AP and Bloomberg are:
– A failure of WHO experts in the field to send reports to WHO headquarters in Geneva
– Bureaucratic hurdles preventing $500,000 reaching the response effort in Guinea
– Doctors unable to gain access because visas had not been obtained…