In a clear move to develop new means of tackling deadly diseases and speedy ways to respond to them, the World Health Organization is revamping how it responds to emergencies to become quicker, more reactive and more operational.

At the just concluded World Health Assembly, Member states agreed to the changes aiming to streamline decision -making and put logistic and medical teams on the ground faster amid wars, natural disasters and outbreaks of viruses like Ebola, Zika or yellow fever, officials said.

A statement released by the United Nations agency said the creation of the new Health Emergencies Program was “one of the most profound transformations in the organization’s history.”

Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s Executive Director ad interim of the Outbreaks and Health Emergencies Cluster says the changes aim to move WHO away from being a technical and “risk-averse” agency toward one with a “no-regrets approach” that would favour possibly over-deploying in emergencies and then “peel back as necessary,” over not doing enough.

He said that the “forward-deployed” teams would monitor the vulnerability of areas to big health risks, and WHO would seek to avoid instances where “seniority gets in the way of the best technical advice” by assigning incident managers to oversee response.

He recognized that the changes would require a “cultural adjustment” at WHO, and that some aspects were already being tried out in the Zika response today in Latin America.

By resisting to the Ebola outbreak alarm for two months on political, religious and economic grounds and failing to put together a decisive response even after the alert was issued, WHO has been faulted for broad mismanagement that hamstrung the world’s response to Ebola.

This led to the death of over 11,300 people, mostly in West Africa.

Assembly delegates agreed to put $494 million in the program for 2016-2017, an increase of nearly 50 percent from prior emergency funding levels.

Author: Ope Adedeji