Via the Ottawa Citizen, a report by Helen Branswell of The Canadian Press: MSF president says WHO, governments need to 'step up' to contain Ebola outbreak. Excerpt:
The World Health Organization and national governments need to step up their efforts if the West African Ebola outbreak is to be brought under control, the president of the leading aid group in the response warns.
The WHO, in particular, must ratchet up its role, Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said in an interview.
She acknowledged the WHO is stretched, financially, and has had to deal with a seemingly endless string of crises and disease outbreaks this year. But no other agency can do this, Liu said.
"I understand the limits of WHO. The reality is there is no other organization in the world who has the legitimacy and the authority to call for a public health emergency and take the leadership on it. And they need to step up to the plate. That's their role," she said in an interview from Montreal.
"This is their key time to shine. They should just take the opportunity to do it. And they will not be blamed for trying, because everybody knows it's unprecedented in terms of epidemics."
The WHO, which has been criticized for being slow to grasp the seriousness of the situation, declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern earlier this month.
In a commentary published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, a number of the agency's scientists estimated that containment efforts will cost at least US$100 million between now and the end of the year. In a separate article, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan warned no one should expect a quick end to the crisis.
"The international community will need to gear up for many more months of massive, co-ordinated, and targeted assistance," she said. "A humane world cannot let the people of West Africa suffer on such an extraordinary scale."
Liu, a Canadian who returned last week from a tour of MSF's operations in the affected countries, indicated her own organization may even be thinking about options it typically does not entertain.
"We're not even excluding having military hospitals. Because to a certain extent to take care of Ebola, you need a high discipline, or what I call a bit of military mind set," she said in an interview.
She declined further comment on the idea when asked if Canada should consider sending its disaster assistance response team — known as DART — to help with the effort.
But Liu stressed that more boots are needed on the ground and said the traditional players in Ebola outbreaks, such as MSF, can't handle this one.
"We need to start to think a little bit out of the box in terms of bringing more capacity. And one of the things we're saying is ... we don't think the usual international aid community will be able to control and contain the epidemic. We need more hands on," Liu said flatly.
"The reality is if we continue at the rate that we are continuing right now, we clearly will not get an upper hand on the epidemic.''