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Ebola Crisis Spurs New WHO Reform Program

The director-general of the World Health Organization WHO , Margaret Chan , speaks during a news conference in Geneva, October 20, 2015.

The World Health Organization chief said preparedness, awareness, and transparency are at the heart of the WHO reform process.

World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan said many lessons have been learned from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and these will be incorporated in the reform process that is underway.

She said being prepared is decisive in fighting any epidemic or pandemic of such magnitude. She told VOA that involves shoring up and strengthening the resilience of fragile health systems in Africa and elsewhere in the world. “In the past, when we talk about a health system, the tendency is to talk about clinical care, curative care. And now we should integrate the public health disease surveillance and laboratory testing as part of the health system capability,” she stated.

As part of the reform program, Dr. Chan said WHO is building a global emergency health work force. She said trained foreign medical teams will be on standby, ready to respond rapidly to a disease outbreak or natural disaster in any country.

She said decisive leadership, awareness of the dangers posed by an epidemic and being transparent about these problems are critical in controlling an outbreak.

One of the big lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa she said is the importance of building trust between the communities and health workers. She said community engagement is a big part of the ongoing work, even as the epidemic is winding down.

“As we are speaking, we are still seeing community resistance. They hide cases. They continue to do secret burials and if that is happening, it will undermine the effective public health measures,” said Chan.

She said Liberia has been declared Ebola free. Sierra Leone has not had a case of Ebola in four weeks and is moving closer to the 42 days needed for it too to be declared free of the disease.

But Dr. Chan warns Ebola is not yet finished. She said the World Health Organization is in the process of confirming three new suspected cases of Ebola in Guinea.