Sat, Oct 11, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Global response to Ebola crisis ‘failed miserably’: World Bank

By Larry Elliott  /  The Guardian, WASHINGTON

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday said that the international community had “failed miserably” in its response to the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 3,800 people in west Africa, and warned that the crisis now affecting Spain and the US was going to get much worse.

Amid signs yesterday that Western governments were being forced to take the risks of a global pandemic more seriously, Kim said he wanted them to back a new US$20 billion global health fund that would be able to react instantly to emergencies.

“It’s late. It’s really late,” Kim said before the Washington-based organization’s annual meeting this weekend. “We should have done so many things. Healthcare systems should have been built. There should have been monitoring when the first cases were reported. There should have been an organized response.”

Kim’s warning that the global community was still not “moving fast enough” came as the Ebola virus claimed its first victim in the US and news of a case in Spain sent shares in travel and airline companies tumbling on stock exchanges.

The WHO said the number of deaths from Ebola in west Africa now stood at 3,879, with no evidence that the epidemic was being brought under control.

Britain on Wednesday said that it was scaling up its efforts to deal with the Ebola virus that has gripped Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. All of England’s major hospitals are making preparations to isolate and treat patients suspected of having Ebola if a serious outbreak occurs, while more than 750 military personnel and the medical ship RFA Argus are being sent to west Africa to help contain the outbreak.

The announcement followed a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee, chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

RFA Argus has a fully-equipped hospital, including critical care and high-dependency units, and is scheduled to be sent to Sierra Leone along with three Merlin helicopters.

The US has also announced that it is scaling up its efforts and is set to tighten screening procedures at airports from this weekend. Thomas Duncan, who died in a Dallas hospital on Wednesday after arriving from Liberia, lied in a questionnaire about whether he had been in contact with anyone affected by Ebola.

Kim said he welcomed the UK and the US scaling up their efforts, but said that a high price was being paid for 11 months of delay and interagency argument.

“Now that there are cases in Spain and the US, the chances of the virus going to other European countries is fairly high,” he said.

In a blunt assessment of how the international community had coped with the crisis, Kim said: “We were tested by Ebola and we failed. We failed miserably in our response.”

He urged finance ministers attending meetings of the World Bank and the IMF this weekend to provide the resources needed to treat Ebola patients in their home countries.

Under the World Bank’s plan, resources would be provided to build big specialized treatment centers and to extend care to local communities. Every developed country should be prepared to send trained medical staff to west Africa, Kim said.

“We don’t need to stop all travel from these countries. It’s going to be impossible to stop people. The way to stop the flow of patients from these countries getting to the rest of the world is to have programs that will treat people and increase survival dramatically. It’s possible. We need to have quality services in place so that the motivation to leave these countries goes away. It is a rational thing to do to get away because we don’t have the treatment in place,” he said.

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