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WHO raises alert on cholera outbreak in Nigeria, elsewhere

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• Admits lacking capacity to tackle global emergencies
• Wants govts to increase tax on tobacco products by 75%
• UNFPA urges more efforts to protect women, girls

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned governments and the international health community that the threat of a cholera outbreak is a major public concern in Nigeria and some developing countries.

WHO, however, in a statement, said the use of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) was proving to be an efficient tool to effectively control outbreaks.

According to the apex United Nations (UN) health body, new outbreaks are ongoing in South Sudan and Tanzania, fanned by insecurity and displacement. Intensive control efforts are ongoing and vaccination programmes have been rolled out to target communities at risk.

In conflict-wracked Yemen and earthquake-ravaged Nepal, WHO has been working with national authorities and partners on the ground to prepare for any outbreak as well as acute water diarrhoea.

On its part, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called on governments to redouble efforts to protect the health and rights of women and girls. It made the call in a statement ahead of the 2015 World Population Day.

Meanwhile, a damning independent report, commissioned by the organisation itself, has declared, “the Ebola crisis proves the organisation lacks the ‘capacity and culture’ to deal with global health emergencies.”

The review panel said WHO was too slow to act to get on top of the deadly virus, which has now killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa. And it calls for an urgent overhaul of the organization.

However, the WHO, in a report published by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), says it has plans for reform. It has already admitted that it waited too long to declare Ebola a public health emergency of international concern.

WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, admitted in May, it had been “overwhelmed” by the Ebola outbreak, saying it “shook this organisation to its core.”

The disease that hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea began spreading in December 2013, but it took until August 2014 for WHO to sound the alarm. By that point, more than 1,000 people had died of the virus. The death toll now stands at more than 11,000.

According to the report, WHO lacked a culture of rapid decision-making. In the early stages of the Ebola crisis, messages were sent about the seriousness of the situation but these “either did not reach senior leaders or senior leaders did not recognise their significance.”

“There seems to have been a hope that the crisis could be managed by good diplomacy rather than by scaling up emergency action,” the report says.

In addition, the Director-General reemphasised that there is no public health justification for refusing entry or quarantining travellers simply because they had been in, or are citizens of one of the affected countries. Any measures applied must be based on appropriate public health evidence or information about potential risks posed by the individual traveller.

Meanwhile, the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2015, says too few governments levy appropriate levels of tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. They, therefore, miss out on a proven, low-cost measure to curb demand for tobacco, save lives and generate funds for stronger health services.

The report, published Tuesday on WHO’s website, focuses on raising taxes on tobacco. Although 33 countries impose taxes that represent more than 75 per cent of the retail price of a packet of cigarettes, many countries have extremely low tax rates.


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