Abbas Dulleh / AP

WHO: West Africa’s health systems need rebuilding post-Ebola

Health officials say only half of needed funds have been pledged, caution virus ‘will not go quietly’

Health care systems in West Africa that collapsed during the Ebola epidemic must be rebuilt urgently to provide basic services and confront other killer diseases, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Recovery plans in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will cost $2.3 billion, only half of which has been pledged, and donors will need confidence in good governance to provide more funds, a senior WHO official said.

"If we want to ensure that this crisis doesn't happen again, we need all together to come up with this money," Dr. Ruediger Krech said at a news briefing. "We must reverse the trend in global health where we wait for the fire to flare up, run to put it out but then forget to fireproof the building."

Krech, referring to what he called "the elephant in the room", said, "Some of these countries have problems with their governance, problems in terms of where money flows, so a lot of monies flow elsewhere. This needs to be addressed so that the international community also has trust and builds up trust that monies they are giving to those countries will be well spent."

More than 11,000 people have died of Ebola since the world's worst outbreak of the disease began in December 2013, according to the WHO. The toll includes 815 health workers, half of whom were front-line nurses or nurse aides.

"The impact of Ebola on health workers has been catastrophic and very wide-ranging in the three countries," said Dr. Ed Kelley of the WHO's service delivery and safety department. Infections of health workers are largely preventable through protective equipment and early triage of patients, he added.

"The devastating numbers of nurses who have lost their lives shows there is clearly an essential need for significant strengthening of safety policies and the provision of adequate protective equipment and appropriate training," David Benton, the head of the International Council of Nurses, said in a statement.

Although Liberia was declared Ebola-free this month, Guinea and Sierra Leone reported 35 new Ebola cases in the past week, four times as many as in the previous week — a reminder that the virus "will not go quietly," the WHO said on Tuesday.

"We must double our efforts to cross the finish line," Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, said in a speech. "We cannot fail twice."


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