Leaders to UN: We need better crisis response after Ebola

AP News
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Posted: Feb 10, 2015 5:16 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A trio of world leaders says the devastating Ebola outbreak exposed the "weakness" of international crisis response and is seeking a solution.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Ghanaian President John Mahama have asked the U.N. secretary-general to create a high-level panel and commission a report on how the world can be faster and more coordinated in the face of disaster.

The letter, handed over to Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, notes that Ebola cases have been dropping in all three of the worst-hit countries but says, "We cannot be complacent."

The worst Ebola outbreak in world history has killed almost 9,000 people. The World Health Organization, the U.N. agency, warns that challenges remain in bringing cases to zero.

WHO chief Margaret Chan has said the agency was too slow to grasp the significance of the outbreak. The poor initial response was blamed on a shortage of funds, overstretched staff and a dysfunctional organizational structure. Last month, several dozen member countries approved a resolution aimed at strengthening the agency's ability to respond to emergencies, though many details have yet to be worked out.

The letter from Germany, Norway and Ghana notes the "urgent need" to now focus on lessons learned from the crisis.

"The Ebola epidemic has disclosed the weakness not only of national healthcare systems and global healthcare structures, but also of international crisis management mechanisms as a whole," the letter says.

It calls for better approaches to mobilizing funding and resources, strengthening basic health care systems and the development of vaccines and treatments for "neglected tropical diseases."

Without an Ebola vaccine, officials have fought the outbreak with classic public health measures, including isolating the sick, tracking and quarantining those who had contact with them and setting up teams to safely bury bodies.

The outbreak is expected to cost the three most affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, at least $1.6 billion in lost economic growth this year.