Lessons learned from the World Health Organization's late initial response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa

J Public Health Afr. 2022 May 26;13(1):1254. doi: 10.4081/jphia.2022.1254. eCollection 2022 May 24.


The purpose of this article is to 1) examine the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in controlling infectious disease outbreaks, 2) evaluate if the WHO's initial response to the 2014-2016 Ebola crisis was appropriate, 3) evaluate current WHO's efforts to prevent future disease outbreaks after the Ebola elimination, and 4) suggest how WHO should be further reformed to provide prompt and accurate guidance to multi-sectoral health stakeholders at local, national, regional and global level for effective surveillance preparedness and response. This is a non-systematic narrative literature review. The articles from PubMed, Scopus, Medline, books, WHO documents and websites, and mass media were collected to be analyzed. WHO is the only specialized agency in the United Nations (UN) that promotes people's health with legitimacy around the globe. Due to the lack of funding and health workforce, weak global health governance, and political and economic concerns about afflicted countries, WHO failed to respond promptly to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. WHO has a central role in the architecture of global health governance. Although WHO was not the only one to be responsible for devastating 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa, it is undeniable that WHO was unprepared to respond to the EVD and failed to govern the global health response system. Furthermore, WHO should always remember its unique responsibility of taking the initiative to respond to the infectious disease outbreak by alarming a distress call.

Keywords: Ebola outbreak; Public Health Emergency of International Concern; World Health Organization.

Grant support

Funding: None.