A Global Response to Health Crises

An advance copy of the U.N. report "Protecting Humanity from Future Heath Crises" warns of the need for the World Health Organization to undergo reform to boost its responsiveness to crisis, including the emerging Zika virus. Assembled by a panel of experts in the wake of the Ebola crisis, the report notes "The high risk of major health crises is widely underestimated and ... the world's preparedness and capacity to respond is woefully insufficient" and that "If the WHO does not successfully reform, the next major pandemic will cause thousands of otherwise preventable deaths."

Speaking to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the WHO noted the organization "is fully committed to urgently reforming our emergency work to address all emergency health risks and events in a predictable, capable, dependable, flexible and accountable manner", echoing previous statements from the WHO that they will act swiftly on reforming the agency's emergency responses.

Key among the report's recommendations is the assembly of a new Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, allowing for "real command and control capability, access to specialized human and operational resources to execute a health response".

Director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity Jeremy Farrar, offered his support for the report's recommendation. "Epidemic and pandemic diseases are among the greatest of all threats to human health and security, against which we have for too long done too little to prepare,” said Farrar. “ After four inquiries into the preventable tragedy of Ebola, there is now a strong consensus about what must be done. The WHO’s leadership and member states must make 2016 the year of decision and act now.”