The real drivers of WHO's agenda — and why those need to change

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 16 February 2015

The World Health Organization logo. Photo by: U.S. Mission in Geneva / CC BY-ND

The World Health Organization has been pummeled by sharp criticism after its initial slow response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa — so much so that reforms were deemed necessary.

A few weeks ago, WHO member states adopted a resolution that calls on the U.N. health agency to implement a slew of reforms. The goal is twofold: get Ebola cases in West Africa down to zero, and improve the overall capacity of the organization to respond to outbreaks and emergencies — a response no doubt to the inefficiencies member states found in WHO’s Ebola response.

But this is not the first time the health agency has tried to implement reforms. It is still in the middle of completing a sweeping reform agenda, which WHO has been struggling to fully implement, covering aspects such as staffing-to-program alignment, appointments of highly qualified people at regional and country level, and streamlined communication across the three levels of the organization. A number of these reforms are set to be completed by year’s end; others have just two more years.

Christian Lindmeier, communications officer at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, told Devex that the challenges the organization is facing in implementation are not unique and are “typical” for any organization trying to implement a concept, such as policies, frameworks and processes.

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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