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UK should lead efforts to reform World Health Organization

19 January 2016

The International Development Committee urges the Government to lead efforts to reform the World Health Organization

Chair's comments

Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The international community relied on WHO to sound the alarm for an international emergency on the scale of Ebola. The organisation's failure to respond quickly enough is now well documented.
The IDC believes that DFID operated effectively once the international response began in earnest. However, the department should have been able to pick up on warnings from sources beyond the established international system. Other organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières were in the field and leading calls for urgent action. There must be a fully functioning early warning system to respond to international public health emergencies.

DFID also needs to be more flexible. The Committee heard how £7,500 in June 2014 would have enabled the building of eight isolation units before the cost of treatment escalated. Small, early interventions, deliver good value for money. Country offices should be able to authorise spending without fear of negative consequences.

It is vital that these lessons are learned as every delay counts. We urge DFID to lead efforts and make this reform a priority."

Science and Technology Committee

While the IDC report focuses primarily on DFID's role and the international response to the outbreak, the Science and Technology Committee has also recently inquired into the lessons drawn from the Ebola outbreak, in particular "concerning the use of scientific advice in the UK for similar disease outbreak emergencies in future." We look forward to the publication of their report. 

Further information

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