AIDS group advises WHO that concrete action to end the current Ebola crisis, address neglected tropical diseases and protect against future emergencies is far more important than promoting its newest slogan.
WASHINGTON (March 13, 2019) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to take more tangible actions towards ending the current Ebola crisis, addressing neglected tropical diseases and protecting against future emergencies in lieu of declarations to promote its newest slogan.
While its “triple billion” plan to improve global health over five years is an admirable goal, the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is evidence that reforms must translate to immediate and actionable changes to better deal with emergencies. Additionally, neglected tropical diseases, which are not mentioned in the statement, are a major cause of disease burden, resulting in approximately 57 million years of life lost due to premature disability and death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The recent statement by WHO may be well-intentioned, but what’s needed right now are reforms that help the people who are dying every day,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “We hope that the goals mentioned in the statement eventually come to fruition, but those currently suffering from the second worse Ebola outbreak in history need WHO’s full attention.”
With over 900 people having been infected with Ebola and almost 600 deaths since last August, AHF urges the international community to do more. WHO should declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and the UN must use its existing mandate that authorizes force to ensure peace for the response effort. These two measures will allow for increased cooperation among agencies, bolstered resources and protection for medical staff working tirelessly to fight the virus.
The outbreak’s epicenter sits in an area where armed groups are competing for control, threatening relief efforts and putting healthcare workers at risk. Just two weeks ago, two Ebola treatment centers were burned down in coordinated attacks that specifically targeted the response. Additionally, political instability and public distrust of outsiders make locating and vaccinating infected or high-risk individuals extremely difficult.
With a deteriorating situation in the Congo, WHO must lead from the front and bring the international community together to end this epidemic. Statements and press releases only go so far—it is time for real action to save lives.