What We’ve Learned from Ebola
Ebola was a wake-up call for countries and the wider international aid community that have not invested enough in strengthening health systems. The outbreak has shown that we need to improve the way we manage outbreak responses, and that more needs to be done to prepare us for pandemics.
The Ebola outbreak has taken a heavy toll in terms of lives as well as the economies of the countries hardest hit. The disease has cost more than 8,800 lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, while cutting an estimated 3% of gross domestic product in Liberia.
Ebola was a wake-up call for countries and the wider international aid community that have not invested enough in strengthening health systems. It has shown that we need to improve the way we manage outbreak responses and that more needs to be done to prepare us for pandemics.
Tim Ewans, senior director of the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank, spoke at this year’s Prince Mahidol Award Conference on the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
He summarized 10 key lessons learned:
- Public health and health services go hand in hand; countries should invest in public health and health service delivery at the same time.
- We need informed citizens and empowered health community workers on the front lines.
- Secure “stuff, staff and citizens”—supply chains need to be in place, a solid health workforce is needed and citizens must be educated.
- Leadership and coordination are key.
- More analysis of health systems performance and accountability mechanisms is a must.
- Invest in regional diseases surveillance networks.
- Build regional and global health workforces.
- Fast track new vaccine and medicine development. New and faster regulatory processes are needed.
- Develop new financing modalities, such as a pandemic insurance for countries.
- The world underinvests in public health--pandemics kill people and derail economies.
As part of its long-term strategy, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will expand operations in the health sector to 3%-5% of its annual approvals, from 2% during 2008-2012. Certainly the time is ripe for this increase, recognizing that health is an important investment to protect and facilitate inclusive economic growth in the Asia Pacific region. As a well-known philosopher once said: “Health is not everything, but everything is nothing without health.”