The Globe and Mail, Lauren Doyle
The Ebola crisis in West Africa struck fear through the globe as the health community was forced to face the prospect of the next widespread deadly pathogen. Though the disease was well contained, it is now apparent that the global community must determine more effective means of handling such an aggressive disease in the future.
Though Canada has had no known cases of Ebola to date, Canada has been very active during the entirety of the crisis. In fact, it was Canada who eventually developed the VSV-EBOV, otherwise known as Vesicular Stomatitis Virus-Ebola Virus vaccine. Though VSV-EBOV was experimental at the time, it proved successful in protecting people in West Africa from contracting the virus.
The UN World Health Committee (WHO) convened earlier to discuss improvements to the plan set in place to deal with major global health crises. In the past, the UN had created successful initiatives such as United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, in an effort to isolate and safely bury victims of the infection. The success of the Ebola Emergency Response was due to the committee dividing the timeline of the crisis into three sections in order to appropriately manage and deal with each.
The first phase of the outbreak focused on treatment and containment. The World Health Organization founded various treatment centers in countries such as Liberia and Nigeria. Treatment staff were also brought in to not only contain the sick members of the community but to ensure that the rest of the community had not been affected.
The second phase of the outbreak in early 2015 focused on finding cases and reaching out to local communities. WHO was tasked with contact tracing, case management, and laboratory services.
The third phase incentivized local governments to work with federal governments and international aid agencies. As the third phase took place in late 2015, the World Health Organization was adamant about maintaining the interest of WHO’s partners as the world slowly lost its interest in the illness, despite its still prevalent state in West African countries.
Recently, the WHO has been discussing reforms to the second phase of the outbreak treatment. Suggestions of use of both drones and satellites have been floated by the committee. The interest of the committee is focused on solving issues with the movement of supplies in West Africa, as well as using technology to protect resources and people in rural areas.
Concerns over the invasiveness of certain tactics has been expressed, though countries such as the United States are still pushing for those invasive tactics. Discussion is still being had as to how to move forward with the topic of utilizing drones for surveying medical emergencies.
However, the proposed reforms to the ways in which the World Health Organization deals with large scale epidemics will surely improve the future of WHO’s emergency health response for a healthier future.