August 15, 2014
MSF Critical of WHO in Battle Against Ebola

MSF, the medical organization that has been in the frontline of the struggle against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is  unhappy with the response of the international community, including the World Health Organization, to the epidemic. Reacting directly to the declaration by WHO of an international public health emergency, Dr Bart Janssens, MSF Director of Operations, had this to say:

"Declaring Ebola an international public health emergency shows how seriously WHO is taking the current outbreak; but statements won't save lives. Now we need this statement to translate into immediate action on the ground. For weeks, MSF has been repeating that a massive medical, epidemiological and public health response is desperately needed to save lives and reverse the course of the epidemic.Lives are being lost because the response is too slow. Countries possessing necessary capacities must immediately dispatch available infectious disease experts and disaster relief assets to the region. It is clear the epidemic will not be contained without a massive deployment on the ground from these states."

In a separate interview ( ) MSF President Joanne Liu "...called for more action from the international community and stronger leadership from WHO - the UN's health agency."

The background to this is that on June 22 this year MSF declared the disease “totally out of control”, and beyond the limits of its resources (read Ebola out of control). It reported outbreaks in 60 separate locations in the region, an unprecedented geographic spread for Ebola. However, on July 9, the assistant Director-General of WHO, Dr Keiji Fukunda, met with President Ernest Koroma at State House and made a point of disagreeing with the assessment that the situation was out of control. The situation has nonetheless continued to deteriorate dramatically.

Apart from the Sierra Leone government, MSF is the only organization with medical workers in the field actually treating  Ebola patients. MSF has also operated treatment centers in Guinea from the start of the outbreak there. They also have been active in Liberia, helping to set up a treatment centre there. The WHO is largely staffed by administrators and other desk workers. Its office in Sierra Leone, in the western suburbs of the capital, is far from the epicentre of the outbreak.