UK expert warns of disaster if lessons are not learned from Ebola outbreak

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
By Paul Martin

Donal Brown, who led the UK’s Ebola taskforce in Sierra Leone, says the outbreak revealed serious failings in the world’s ability to deal with health crises

Sam Jones
Wednesday 17 June 2015

Failure to learn the lessons of the Ebola outbreak will have unthinkable consequences when the next global health emergency erupts, the former head of the UK’s Ebola taskforce in Sierra Leone has warned.

Donal Brown, who led British efforts to tackle the disease in the west African country, said the outbreak had exposed serious technical and collaborative failings in the international community’s response mechanisms.

“We got off lightly on Ebola as a global community and we couldn’t even respond properly to that,” he said.

Brown declared that not only was the response late because international alert systems were not working properly, it was also hampered by “an ongoing debate” as to whether the outbreak should be treated as a health emergency or a humanitarian one.

“It was both, very clearly – and we need to ensure that we’ve got systems that speak to each other so we’re not in a thing about should it be the World Health Organisation (WHO) leading this or should it be a UN humanitarian response. This is a complex health-humanitarian emergency and our systems need to be able to lead that together,” he said.

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