By Alexandra Sifferlin
May 18, 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) is implementing “fundamental changes”—including a establishing a $100 million contingency fund—after the poor response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The world was ill-prepared to respond to an outbreak that was so widespread, so severe, so sustained, and so complex,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan at the annual World Health Assembly on Monday.”WHO was overwhelmed, as were all other responders. The demands on WHO were more than ten times greater than ever experienced in the almost 70-year history of this Organization.” The assembly is the decision-making body of WHO and the meeting is attended by delegates from the WHO member states.

Chan told those present at the event that the WHO is making changes to ensure it is better equipped for a similar health-related emergency in the future.

First, the WHO says it is developing a new program specifically focusing on health emergencies that will have performance benchmarks for what must happen 24, 48 and 72 hours after the beginning of an outbreak. The WHO is also establishing a global health emergency workforce and will strengthen its trained emergency response staff through a proposed increase in budget. The agency is also streamlining its managerial and logistical procedures. Lastly, Chan said the agency is establishing a $100 million contingency fund that will be financed through voluntary contributions. This, Chan said, is to make sure the WHO has the necessary resources needed.

“I do not ever again want to see this Organization faced with a situation it is not prepared, staffed, funded, or administratively set up to manage,” said Chan. “We will move forward on an urgent footing. I plan to complete these changes by the end of the year.”

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