Ebola: WHO's next Africa chief elected

2014-11-05 17:18


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cotonou - As Ebola continues to burn its way through three West African countries, the World Health Organisation on Wednesday elected its next Africa director, a doctor from Botswana who is a long-time veteran of the UN agency at a meeting in Benin.

In Sierra Leone, where the epidemic is currently particularly strong and where treatment centres need to be urgently built, one built by Britain was finally opening outside the capital Wednesday.

The centre in Kerry Town includes an 80-bed facility to be managed by Save The Children and a 12-bed unit, which will expand to 20 beds over the coming months, for health care workers and international staff who become infected by Ebola. This smaller one will be staffed by British army medics.

"We are expecting the first patients today," said Helen Mayelle, a Save the Children spokesperson. The centre will gradually become fully operational over the coming weeks.

Future Ebola outbreak

The announcement of the election of WHO's new Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, was made by Senegalese Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck, who chaired the vote.

Moeti expressed optimism that the outbreak, which has killed nearly 5 000 people, would be under control within three months.

"I hope that the [Ebola] situation will be improved by the time I take office in February 2015," Moeti said. She said the health systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been devastated by the epidemic and would need to be rebuilt and that readiness for any future Ebola outbreak must be improved, including warning systems and monitoring capabilities.

Representatives from WHO's 46 African member countries — usually members of health ministries — voted in a secret ballot for the regional director. Elections in UN organisations give member countries a say in who the leader is.

WHO Africa's outgoing leader, Angolan doctor Luis Sambo, was criticised for initially bungling WHO's response to the biggest Ebola outbreak in history.

Lack of accountability

In an internal draft document obtained by the Associated Press last month, WHO blamed its staff in Africa for initially botching the response to Ebola.

Dr Donald A Henderson, who ran WHO's smallpox eradication program in the 1970s, said WHO offices often lack accountability and that past elections were based on political trade-offs, not merit.

Moeti previously led the epidemiology department in Botswana's Health Ministry as well as its Aids department and joined WHO Africa as a regional adviser for women's and adolescent health. She was previously head of WHO's Malawi office and was WHO Africa's deputy regional director until March.

Sierra Leone has seen a rapid increase in cases in and around the capital in recent weeks, and the country is desperately short on space to treat people. Britain's Department for International Development, which funded the Kerry Town centre, says there are only 326 beds in Sierra Leone. This is in a country that has routinely reported around 350 cases per week over the last several weeks.

The Kerry Town centre also hosts a laboratory, run by British scientists, to test for the disease. It is the first of six centres that Britain plans to build.

Read more on:    un  |  who  |  ebola  |  health

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.