Ron Klain’s June 7 Sunday Opinion commentary, “Preventing the next pandemic,” correctly pointed to the urgent need for a better world response to outbreaks. The first line of defense should be strengthening the health-care systems in vulnerable countries so each has capacity to deal with infectious disease threats. There were only 117 doctors in Liberia in 2014, one for about every 33,000 people.
The resilience gained from assets such as doctors and nurses trained in infection control, well-stocked clinics within walking distance of villagers and the ability to conduct disease surveillance would help countries contain potential epidemics themselves instead of collapsing under the strain. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone released itemized recovery plans to revive and improve their health-care systems, but these plans need to be funded.
Our next major opportunity to address the Ebola aftermath and show we’ve learned from the mayhem of the initial response lies with the International Ebola Recovery Conference on July 10. Let’s ensure we put our investments in the right places, with country health sectors at the top of the list.
Marie Paule Kieny, Geneva
The writer is assistant director general for health systems and innovation for the World Health Organization.