Washington, D.C. —The President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, has criticized the WHO response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as being ‘disastrously inadequate’ and called for Western countries to step forward and provide much needed assistance.

He believes that had the outbreak begun in the US or Europe, healthcare facilities would have easily contained the infection by this point.

Inadequate response: Tom Freiden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said that the US$20 million given by USAID so far and the US$4475 million pledged by WHO is a good start, but states that the epidemic is so overwhelming that it requires an “overwhelming response.” USAID has committed to providing an additional US$75 million to fund 1,000 beds in Liberia, the worst affected country, as well as protective clothing. Reports from villages housing so-called ‘Ebola camps’ say that basic provisions, such as food for patients, are lacking.

The CDC has sent 70 specialists to Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone where Mr. Frieden has said the virus is spreading faster than anyone had anticipated. He believes that it is essential for foreign medical teams to commit their expertise and training in order to combat the infection. The burden of the response has so far been carried by the nongovernmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières, where 90% of staff are local, and Samaritan’s Purse.

Experimental treatment not enough: Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc., has been awarded a US$24.9 million 18-month contract for the development of the vaccine as part of the response to combat the Ebola outbreak. Mr.Frieden, however, reiterated that although promising, the experimental drug ZMapp is not the answer as its effectiveness is not yet understood and supplies are inadequate. Instead, he says, emphasis should be placed on the training of local health staff, health management systems and resource and labor-intensive hygiene precautions.

Scope of Ebola outbreak: Since the outbreak began in March of this year, over 3,500 people have been confirmed infected and more than 1,900 have died, although this may be underestimated. More than 40% of infections have occurred in the last three weeks, indicating the increased pace of the outbreak, and WHO predicts that up to 20,000 may become infected.

Liberia’s President Sirleaf has pleaded with the international community not to instill fear, saying “we need that hope, we need that assistance, we need for Liberians to know that this war can be won.” He voiced his dismay at global reaction saying “in a way, we feel saddened by the response.”

[tw-divider]EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE FACTS[/tw-divider]

– EVD was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976
– There are five strains; four cause infection in humans and one in primates
– Transmission occurs via direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people or animals
– Symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lack of appetite
– Incubation period of 2-21 days (average of 8-10)
– No vaccine or medicine available but early intervention increases chance of survival
– Fruit bats thought to be natural hosts of infection

World Bank chides ‘disastrously inadequate’ Ebola response

Deborah Almond

Deborah Almond is AMG's Health Editor and an infectious disease specialist, with experience in sexual and reproductive health and malaria in pregnancy. She holds an MSc from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a BSc from University College London.

Category: Health

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