Report: Pushed to the Limit and Beyond — A year into the largest ever Ebola outbreak
MSF, March 2015 :: 22 pages
Pushed to the Limit and Beyond: MSF on the global Ebola response one year into the deadliest outbreak in history
March 23, 2015
One year ago today, an outbreak of Ebola in the West African country of Guinea was announced. Since then, nearly 10,000 people have died of the disease, and it has not yet been defeated. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today released a critical analysis of the Ebola epidemic over the past year, revealing the shortcomings of the global response to the crisis and warning that the outbreak, despite an overall decline in cases, is not yet over.
The report, Pushed to the Limit and Beyond, is based on interviews with dozens of MSF staff involved in the organization’s Ebola intervention. It describes MSF’s early warnings one year ago about cases of Ebola spreading in Guinea, the initial denial by governments of the affected countries, and the unprecedented steps that MSF was forced to take in the face of global inaction as the outbreak engulfed neighbouring states.
Exposing inefficiencies in aid and health systems
“Today we share our initial reflections and take a critical look at both MSF’s response and the wider global response to the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history,” says Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF international president. “The Ebola epidemic proved to be an exceptional event that exposed the reality of how inefficient and slow health and aid systems are to respond to emergencies.”
The report details the effects of the several months-long “global coalition of inaction,” during which the virus spread wildly, leading MSF to issue a rare call for the mobilization of international civilian and military medical assets with biohazard capacity. By the end of August, MSF’s ELWA3 centre in Monrovia was overwhelmed with patients. Staff were forced to turn away visibly ill people from the front gate, in the full knowledge that they would likely return to their communities and infect others.
“The Ebola outbreak has often been described as a perfect storm: a cross-border epidemic in countries with weak public health systems that had never seen Ebola before,” says Christopher Stokes, MSF’s general director. “Yet this is too convenient an explanation. For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail. And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences.”…
(Accessed 28 March 2015)
Strengthening the Detection of and Early Response to Public Health Emergencies: Lessons from the West African Ebola Epidemic
Mark J. Siedner, Lawrence O. Gostin, Hilarie H. Cranmer, John D. Kraemer
Published: March 24, 2015
:: The international response to the West African Ebola virus disease epidemic has exemplified the great potential of the global public health community. However, the protracted early response also revealed critical gaps, which likely resulted in exacerbation of the epidemic.
:: It is incumbent on international health partners to learn from missteps that occurred in the early stages of the epidemic and strengthen our public health capacity to better respond to future public health emergencies.
:: Strategies to consider include development of a more precise system to risk stratify geographic settings susceptible to disease outbreaks, reconsideration of the 2005 International Health Regulations Criteria to allow for earlier responses to localized epidemics before they reach epidemic proportions, increasing the flexibility of the World Health Organization director general to characterize epidemics with more granularity, development of guidelines for best practices to promote partnership with local stakeholders and identify locally acceptable response strategies, and, most importantly, making good on international commitments to establish a fund for public health emergency preparedness and response.
:: The recent success of the global action to stem the Ebola virus disease epidemic is laudable but should not encourage complacency in our efforts to improve the global public health infrastructure.