The weakening of health institutions and Ebola – Marcelle Marins

In the 1990s, the structure of the global health was much simpler than today since the WHO (World Health Organization) was the main authority when dealing with diseases around the world, and also the one that received more funds. Having a central organization helped to bring order, lead and power to face the ailment problems worldwide.

When the WHO had its leading position taken and its funds decreased, it was observed that, as Garrett put it, new NGO and UN-related players entered the field, spewing confusion, complexity, even anarchy in the governance of global health. Therefore, the appearance of new actors made the fight against diseases harder, since now you have thousands of NGOs and multilateral organizations fighting to be the ones that will receive more money and attention of private donors and countries.

The difficulty in the fight against illness becomes even more evident when you face a specific threat such as Ebola. As can be seen in the Fox article the three countries most affected by Ebola––Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia––don’t have enough personnel to do an effective response, and the organizations that could help such as the WHO are not prepared to do so. Moreover, the doctors, nurses and technicians available don’t have the equipment necessaries to protect themselves and help to stop the spread of the virus.

The lack of conditions to handle an outbreak shows that is important to have a major health authority, because just a strong institution would have enough fund and personnel to deal with the unexpected. Thereby, the Ebola case demonstrates that the existence of several organizations weakens the struggle since the resources are divided, which means that none has adequate cash to buy the materials needed or to maintain active personnel.

So, in order to become more effective I see two main options for these institutions. The first one is to fuse into one main institution that would have subunits, but would still be one body where the assets would go. Nevertheless, I don’t see this happening in a foreseeable future since none of the most important organizations would like to lose its autonomy and position. A second option is to temporary link the main organizations in a way that money could flow to where it is most needed in the case of an outbreak like Ebola happens, so one specialized organization in the matter would have enough resources to back up a country.


One thought on “The weakening of health institutions and Ebola – Marcelle Marins”

  1. I agree that having so many actors create confusion and inefficiency, especially to specific goals that WHO is trying to achieve. Even though social and scientific development is very intertwined, I think the difference between social development and scientific development such as health should be addressed.

    In terms of social development, having one or only handful of actors is dangerous because it can force those actors’ social beliefs, most likely Western ideas, and shun other beliefs of the recipient countries like developing countries.

    However, for scientific development such as health, it is not as dangerous to have a single actor or just couple actors working in the field. This is because values and beliefs can differ so much from a country to another but the need to safe people’s life does not differ across the world. In order to do anything, one must be alive before all. When there are many actors, allocation of money can be inefficient, not having enough money to give a ‘big push’ to those countries in need. Money can be wasted on advertisement and politics in the process of many actors trying to fight over the money. Using that money in actual health development plans is far more productive. Also, it is difficult for many organizations to communicate to one another about their budgeting process, even though this high less the confusion. Instead, if a big one actor could get bigger amount of money and communicate with in the organizations, enforcement of the health improvement plans can be more powerful.


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