As President Barack Obama appointed an ‘Ebola czar’ and contemplated imposing restrictions on travelers coming to the U.S. from West African countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) admitted that it dropped the ball in stemming the still-spiraling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors ranging from internal politics to poor communication between infectious disease experts and the U.N. health agency’s headquarters.
“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the WHO said in a draft internal document obtained by the Associated Press—an assessment that seems to apply not just to the WHO, but to personnel in all countries affected by the viral disease that has killed close to 5,000 people.
AP reports: “[T]he agency wrote that experts should have realized that traditional infectious disease containment methods wouldn’t work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems” and “acknowledged that, at times, even its own bureaucracy was a problem. It noted that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are ‘politically motivated appointments’ made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan.”
Also on Friday, the UN’s World Food Programme warned that the health crisis could soon become a “food and nutrition crisis.” The food supply has been disrupted by the death of farmers and by government f
The issue of hunger could be compounded if Obama implements a travel ban to the U.S. from West African countries, a prospect some experts warned against.
“A travel ban would…hurt the region economically,” Jonathan Cohn wrote in the New Republic. “And while it might seem frivolous to worry about dollars (or other currencies) when it comes to matters of life and death, the issues are inextricably linked. The more the people of these countries face deprivation, whether its lack of jobs or lack of food, the more they will push to leave.”