WHO Working to Reform Itself

WHO Working to Reform Itself

LONDON (AP) -- The World Health Organization's chief Dr. Margaret Chan says the agency is working to reform itself in the wake of its bungled response to last year's Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Chan said new protocols were being developed for how the agency functions during health emergencies. The agency has previously proposed creating a specialized center within WHO to handle emergencies that would be self-managed.

WHO has been criticized for its failure to get a handle on Ebola, a virus which has killed more than 11,000 people, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. As WHO struggled, a special international body — the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response — was set up to help manage the response and a panel was commissioned to propose institutional reforms.

Among its recommendations: An emergency arm which would operate independently of WHO bureaucracy.

David Nabarro, the head of the UN mission, said WHO had already absorbed some of the lessons of the outbreak, recovering its leadership role in West Africa and deploying more 1,000 staffers to the field.

"This is an example of the new WHO at work," he told reporters.

But Charles Clift, a public health expert at the London policy institute Chatham House, was unsure if adding another arm to an already bloated WHO might help.

And despite the health agency's repeated vows to hold itself accountable, Clift was unconvinced. He noted that some of the WHO leaders in Africa blamed for the slow response to Ebola have since been moved to other countries.

"Getting sacked doesn't really happen at the UN," he said.

Chan acknowledged that WHO was slow and that she was "absolutely accountable" for everything the agency does.