The World Health Organization's (WHO) reputation became irrefutably damaged during the Ebola outbreak, with a general consensus in the global health community that it fell short of its leadership responsibilities. This commentary offers a brief synopsis of the WHO's role during the outbreak and suggests that the disease outbreak demonstrates the tension that exists between the organization's normative and operational roles in health crises. While the WHO did offer some normative leadership during the Ebola outbreak, as per its constitution, it did not provide an effective operational response, yet nor did it have a mandate to do so. This division between the normative and operational was further highlighted by the discrepancy between what the global community expects the WHO to do in a health emergency, and what it is able to do with its financial and organizational constraints. Finally, the commentary considers the introduction of the WHO Health Emergency Programme, but suggests that this too may suffer from the same structural concerns that need to be addressed if the WHO is to continue in the role the global health community expects it to play, as both a normative and operational leader in global disease control.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘The 2013–2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.
One contribution of 17 to a theme issue ‘The 2013–2016 West African Ebola epidemic: data, decision-making and disease control’.
- Accepted December 16, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.