WHO chief promises transparency in Ebola review

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2014 11:56 AM

ROME (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization refused Wednesday to respond to criticism about the U.N. agency's performance in containing the Ebola outbreak, saying the focus now should be on helping countries contain it.

Dr. Margaret Chan said the agency would review how the whole world — and the WHO in particular — managed the outbreak "and there will be time for sharing information in a transparent and accountable manner."

"But at this point in time, it is important for us to focus our entire energy and attention to help countries who are being affected to get the job done," she said.

Chan was asked on the sidelines of a U.N. nutrition conference about an internal WHO memo obtained by The Associated Press last month that found that the agency botched attempts to stop the spiraling outbreak because of incompetent staff, bureaucracy and lack of reliable information. The head of the WHO regional office for Africa is being replaced.

During her speech to the U.N. conference, Chan said medical epidemics like Ebola can have wide reverberations around the globe, including on nutrition.

She criticized bans on bush meat that were imposed in some parts of Africa in a bid to contain the outbreak, after studies linked wild animals to the start of Ebola. She noted that bush meat is a principal source of food and income for people in the region.

"You cannot solve the problem of hunger with a ban," Chan said. "If banned from hunting, selling and consuming this food, they starve."