AHF on Ebola: World must rethink role of World Health Organization

In News by AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has lost two physicians in Africa to Ebola, delivers an urgent letter to W.H.O. Director General Dr. Margaret Chan outlining nine urgent proposals to improve the global response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

WASHINGTON (October 23, 2014) In a letter addressed to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS nonprofit organization in the USA that provides HIV care, treatment and testing services to over 350,000 individuals in 36 countries, expressed its concern regarding the Organization’s handling to date of the Ebola crisis ravaging West Africa. In the letter, AHF let Dr. Chan know that it has been directly affected by the African Ebola outbreak: First, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, AHF’s Medical Officer in Sierra Leone overseeing AHF’s HIV/AIDs care there and who was also that country’s leading Ebola specialist, died due to Ebola infection on July 29th. Subsequently, Dr. John Taban Dada, a consultant with AHF’s partner organization in Liberia, People Associated for People’s Assistance (PAPA), died October 9th of Ebola. In addition AHF’s service delivery operations in Sierra Leone have been severely disrupted.

In its letter, AHF also expressed to Dr. Chan that it has been engaged in a close and constructive dialogue with a number of WHO officers handling the Ebola crisis. However, at this time, AHF shared remaining concerns and specific requests that AHF thinks will benefit and improve the Ebola response to help bring the outbreak under control more quickly and effectively while achieving a positive long-term impact. Therefore, in its letter to Dr. Chan, AHF urged the World Health Organization to:


  • Commit to the evacuation of any healthcare worker infected with Ebola in West Africa, not just foreigners. Either to foreign countries or to regional or in-country state-of-the-art equipped facilities.
  • Provide written assurances to healthcare personnel in the three hardest-hit countries that they will be evacuated and receive top-quality care in case of infection.
  • Mobilize more well-trained healthcare workers from around the world and deploy them in the West African Region.
  • Procure appropriate protective gear and ensure that it is delivered and distributed without delays in the areas of need.
  • Introduce and offer training in initial home-based management of the Ebola patient to prevent relatives or partners of getting infected during those stages.
  • Re-visit the WHO media and communication strategy.
  • Hold press conferences twice a week, led by the WHO Director General.
  • Call on the world leaders to rethink and reshape the structure and mandate of WHO.
  • Involve civil society organizations that have in-the-field experience in providing healthcare services as part of a rapid response to control new and emerging transmissible diseases.


The letter was signed by AHF’s President Michael Weinstein and six additional global staff members of AHF, including Miata Jambawai, AHF’s country program Manager in Sierra Leone, who is actively involved at her country’s Ebola Emergency Operations Center.

Terri Ford, AHF’s Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy, and a signatory to the letter commented, “AHF’s letter to WHO is based in good faith, but at the same time we are demanding and expecting changes and rapid action. Thousands have already died, the World Health Organization could slow the rate of deaths by adopting these recommendations.”

Dr. Jorge Saavedra, AHF’s Global Ambassador and Former Head of the National AIDS Center of Mexico, also commented, “AHF lauds the role MSF has been playing in the response to Ebola, which has been commendable, highly effective and far beyond its responsibilities; on the other hand, the response of WHO has been slow, ineffective and has lacked coordination. It is likely that a change of WHO’s current leadership is also needed,” he added.

Finally, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF, suggested, “The world needs a different kind of international public health body, probably one that can be created via a UN Security Council resolution—and one without the bureaucracy that involves the current international health system—that is capable of directly intervening to bring effective and rapid control to situations involving emerging or transmittable diseases that can metastasize and grow to become global threats as Ebola has become.”

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