WHO Emergency Committee “Should Do Something Bold,” says Georgetown Global Health Expert

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Karen Teber / km463@georgetown.edu

WASHINGTON (October 16, 2018) — On Wednesday, Oct. 17, the World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee meeting to determine if the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations.

Public health and law expert Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown, says the emergency meeting is warranted “with the Ebola outbreak poised to spin out of control and worsening security in the city of Beni.”

“There is a high risk of transborder spread,” Gostin says. “Civilians and frontline workers have been killed and the public health response thwarted. Declaring a PHEIC would raise the political profile and mobilize resources. It would bring the force of international law in support of new public health recommendations.

“The Emergency Committee should do something bold,” Gostin adds. “Security is key to a public health response, but WHO neither has the mandate nor the capacity to ensure security on the ground. The WHO should call for United Nations and/or African Union peacekeepers. The peacekeeping mission should be to explicitly protect front line workers and enable the public health response, including a safe and effective vaccination campaign.”

He concludes, “In the DRC we are seeing that diplomacy and a strong political response is as important as public health action.”

To arrange an interview with Gostin, please contact Karen Teber at km463@georgetown.edu

Click here for a list of Georgetown subject matter experts who can provide comment and context on Ebola the areas of infectious disease (clinical and molecular biology), global health security, vaccine development and international health regulations.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.

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