LONDON – The World Health Organization said Saturday that it wouldn’t explain details contained in an internal document obtained by The Associated Press in which the U.N. health agency said it fumbled early attempts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In the draft document, which wasn’t released publicly, WHO blamed numerous factors for the now explosive Ebola epidemic, including incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information.
“WHO will not do interviews or explain details on this document until it is completed,” the health agency said in a statement Saturday. “WHO believes in transparency and accountability and will release this review when it is fact-checked.”
So far, Ebola has been blamed for 4,546 deaths in West Africa out of at least 9,191 cases. WHO estimated that there could be 10,000 cases every week by December unless stronger measures are enacted to fight the outbreak.
WHO said in the draft document that “nearly everyone” involved in the response to Ebola failed to notice factors that turned the outbreak into the biggest-ever on record.
When Doctors Without Borders warned in April that Ebola cases were out of control, a dispute on social media broke out between the charity and a WHO spokesman who insisted the virus was being contained.
According to the internal report, it was only in June that WHO’s chief, Dr. Margaret Chan, was alerted to the seriousness of the outbreak – and of the organization’s botched efforts in West Africa.
At a meeting of WHO’s network of outbreak experts in June, Dr. Bruce Aylward, normally in charge of polio eradication, emailed Chan about the major concerns being raised about WHO’s leadership in West Africa, telling her that some of the agency’s partners – including national health agencies and charities – believed WHO was “compromising rather than aiding” the response to Ebola.
In its statement on Saturday, WHO said it would conduct “a full review and analysis” of the global response to Ebola once the outbreak is over.
Canada’s government, meanwhile, said it will start shipping an experimental Ebola vaccine to WHO on Monday. Canada will send 800 vials of the vaccine in three shipments.