Ebola response: World Health Organisation releases new plan

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Photo: Cadaver Teeth https://flic.kr/p/DWJSD Published under Creative Commons License.

This morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new Ebola Response Roadmap—a detailed plan for stopping the ongoing West African Ebola outbreak over the next six to nine months.

This updated document is an important step in ensuring that the world’s response to the outbreak is better coordinated and more comprehensive.  But it also comes with a hefty new price tag: $490 million—a nearly five-fold increase over their previous $100 million estimate.

Why did the price tag increase so much over the last few weeks?

The simplest explanation is “more cases, more places.”  Since the WHO’s previous estimate was released at the end of July, the Ebola epidemic has spread more rapidly and in more places than many initially anticipated, including new cases in Nigeria.  But the price tag is also larger because previous estimates may not have planned for such an aggressive response.

WHO has now used a more sophisticated unit-cost model to better assess how much it will really cost to effectively stop the spread of the disease.   The end result is a more detailed estimate of the global resources required over the next 6 months – not just by WHO, but also by national governments, UN agencies and other partners such as non-governmental organizations–to stop Ebola transmission.

Break it down for me: where will the $490 million go?
The $490 million will be divided up roughly as follows:

  • $389 million for countries with widespread and intense transmission, including $126 million for Ebola treatment center;
  • $13.2 million for an emergency response for countries with initial cases or localized transmission;
  • $20 million to strengthen detection and response preparedness, particularly in at-risk countries; and
  • $67.5 million for operationalizing the Roadmap, including funding for for crisis management, coordination, and training and care for health workers

Are we sure that $490 million is the final ask for this Ebola outbreak?
No. The WHO has emphasized that this should not necessarily be seen as the final number.  They see this ask as fluid—evolving as the Ebola outbreak itself evolves.  So, for instance, they will be monitoring the new cases in Nigeria and DRC closely, tracking to see if those cases lead to more widespread transmission or if they can be stamped out in the weeks to come.

We should also remember that this Roadmap does not take into account the costs for broader health systems strengthening that will inevitably be required in West Africa, particularly once the Ebola outbreak has been contained.  These countries have some of the weakest health systems in the world, characterized by a drastic shortage of doctors and nurses, functioning laboratory capacity, and even the most basic medical supplies.  In order for them to protect against future outbreaks and provide effective health care for their citizens, they will require new and sustained investments in health moving forward.

Are we starting from scratch? What’s been raised so far?
Thankfully, we’re not starting from zero, but there’s a lot of fundraising left to do.  So far, we’ve seen roughly $20 million in commitments from donors around the world. In many cases, these were extremely helpful but nominal first pledges, and we hope and expect to see additional resources coming in from those who have the greatest capacity to help.  This includes not just financial contributions, but also in-kind contributions of supplies, human resources, and expertise.

We’ve also seen two major commitments by the World Bank ($200 million) and the African Development Bank ($60 million)towards the Ebola response.  While it’s not yet clear how much of those commitments will go directly towards the $490 million plan versus towards other complementary interventions, we are hopeful that those resources can go at least some of the way in closing the WHO’s gap.

But as of today, what is clear is that the world still needs to mobilize more than $300 million in additional resources to fund the Ebola Roadmap.

What can I do to help?
In the coming weeks, as we get more clarity on donors’ contributions and the WHO’s greatest needs, we may be coming back to you to put pressure on your governments to step up or do more—so stay tuned.  In the meantime, there are many organizations working on Ebola across the region that are in need of urgent support.

Read more about their work and how to donate.