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World Health Organization blamed for ongoing spread of Ebola -

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ELEANOR HALL: A US professor of global public health policy says the World Health Organization (WHO) should accept responsibility for the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

The virus has infected more than 22,000 people and killed 9,000 of them.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal, New York University Professor Karen Grepin says the WHO took too long to declare the outbreak a public health emergency.

The professor has been speaking to Alison Caldwell.

KAREN GREPIN: I found that donors had given almost $3 billion worth of pledges, which compared to by the end of 2014, the ask or what was thought to be needed in the official appeal, was only about $1.5 billion.

So in fact donors were a fair bit more generous than the international community was calling on them to be.

But of course those pledges don't necessarily always mean that is money on the ground and so there was quite a large delay in terms of how they run the resources for each country.

The two sources of delay was first it took a really long time for international leaders like the WHO and others to actually call on international donors to give resources and then once donors made pledges it takes a couple of months sometimes for some of those resources to actually reach the country.

And so for a lot of reasons there were significant delays on a number of the resources and it could be that by the end of 2014 only about $1 billion had actually reached the affected countries.

ALISON CALDWELL: So $1 billion of the $3 billion?

KAREN GREPIN: Yeah and essentially that is one full year after the first cases of Ebola happened. It was a very long delay.

ALISON CALDWELL: How do you think that may have affected the situation, in terms of tackling the Ebola epidemic?

KAREN GREPIN: They do strongly believe that had resources been made available in a more rapid fashion then we could have seen a much bigger response and likely that we would have seen the turning of the epidemic much sooner than we currently are.

You know, it's possible even that it wouldn't have spread much beyond the original cases if we had actually rotated the money in time and so I do believe that the delay in funding has led to more cases of Ebola than would have happened otherwise.

ALISON CALDWELL: So the World Health Organization, I mean, how much responsibility does it need to take for this delay?

KAREN GREPIN: You know, I think that's really the million dollar question or perhaps I should say billion dollar question.

You know, I think a lot of people are asking why it took so long for the WHO to declare it.

They were notified of the epidemic back in March and in theory they had enough evidence to declare it a public health emergency at that time.

ALISON CALDWELL: Would this be a failure then of the World Health Organization, Ebola?

KAREN GREPIN: I definitely think so. I mean I don't feel shy in saying that.

I think already everybody is asking why and how we could have let this go on for so long.

Every epidemic of Ebola in the past has been addressed relatively rapidly and hasn't spread and we know how to do these things.

It's not rocket science, it's not inventing the wheel.

It's really about getting resources into this country and it took a really long time for that to happen.

The WHO is ultimately responsible for this and so I think they are, they can be blamed for this failure.

ELEANOR HALL: That's New York University Professor Karen Grepin speaking to Alison Caldwell.