UNITED NATIONS- A UN-initiated panel started wide consultations this week to gather lessons learned from Ebola crisis, with an aim to improve local and global response to prevent and manage future health crises.

The panel, which was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in April, told reporters here Friday they just concluded the first meeting to hear briefings on the response of the Ebola epidemic.

“Our mission has been to come up with proposals on how the world can respond better on the next epidemic, be it Ebola or otherwise,” said Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete, who chairs the panel.

From May 4 to 8, the panel heard briefings from UN special envoy on Ebola David Nabarro, former and current special representatives of UN mission in Liberia, as well as representatives from World Health Organization, World Bank and non-governmental organizations and scholars.

Talking about what early lessons the panel learned from the Ebola crisis, panel member Micheline Calmy-Rey noted that “there is a link between poverty or lack of development and the outbreak of epidemic.”

The former Swiss President Calmy-Rey also said that there is room for improvement in strengthening response at national and international levels.

Other members also pointed out that hygiene habits and cultures are among factors that add to the outbreak of the latest epidemic, which killed some 11,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Kikwete said that the six-member panel will go to Geneva to hear from WHO and other institutions based there before going to west African countries “to get the feel and impressions of people, governments and all the players who have been there.”

He said that the panel will then sit down and start writing their report, which is expected to be submitted to Ban in December.

Ban decided to appoint the panel following the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, which escalated to become one of the largest global public heath crises in recent history, claiming thousands of lives and sickening many more with the devastating social-economic impacts.

The spread of the disease in the epicenter countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has highlighted the importance and urgency of strengthening the architecture and management of global heath crises in order to better address future outbreaks.PNA/Xinhua

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