But for cultural practices including burial rites and compassion for the sick by Africans, Ebola scourge would not have spread and killed thousands of people of the region the way it did, the World Health Organization, WHO, said yesterday. Besides, global complacency; weak health systems; inefficiency of the WHO in rising to tackling emergency of Ebola magnitude; unchecked regional migration, facilitated by porous borders among others have been identified as factors that aided the spread of the virus which has killed over 8,000 people since it broke out in Guinea early last year.
Director-General, WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, stated these in her address to the Special Session of the Executive Board on Ebola in Switzerland, Geneva, recently. Chan also called for increased efforts to end the disease in the three African countriescurrentlyunderitsthreats. The countries are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. She particularly blamed the world for failing to facilitate research that would help check the menace, 40 years after it was first reported. She also highlighted loopholes identified within the WHO since the scourge broke out on large scale last year, and proposed “a package of reforms” in the agency.
Chan said: “The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in parts of West Africa is the largest, longest, most severe, and most complex in the nearly four-decade history of this disease. This was West Africa’s first experience with the virus, and it delivered some horrific shocks and surprises. The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us. “Ebola is a tragedy that has taught the world, including WHO, many lessons, also about how to prevent similar events in the future. Factors of culture, history, geography, and weak road and health infrastructures produced a mix of opportunities that the virus quickly exploited.
“Exceptionally mobile populations moving across exceptionally porous borders infected new areas, reinfected others, and eluded contact tracing teams. Health systems, already weakened during years of civil war and unrest, collapsed under the weight of this disease. “Prior to the outbreak, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone had only 1 to 2 doctors per nearly 100,000 population. Ebola cut this number down considerably. The number of infected doctors, nurses, and other health care staff, at nearly 850 with 500 deaths, was unprecedented for Ebola, as was the fact that these infections were still occurring in December, a year into the outbreak,” she added.