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Impact of the organisation and performance of health systems on the control of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

An Ebola outbreak started in December 2013 in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014. The health systems in place in the three countries lacked the infrastructure and the preparation to respond to the outbreak quickly and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a public health emergency of international concern on August 8 2014. We conducted a study to determine the effects of health systems’ organisation and performance on the West African Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and lessons learned. The WHO health system building blocks were used to evaluate the performance of the health systems in these countries.

A systematic review of articles published from inception until July 2015 was conducted following the PRISMA guidelines. The review was supplemented with expert interviews where participants were identified from reference lists and using the snowball method.  Ensuring an adequate and efficient health workforce is of the utmost importance to ensure a strong health system and a quick response to new outbreaks. Adequate service delivery results from a collective success of the other blocks. Health financing and its management is crucial to ensure availability of medical products, fund payments to staff and purchase necessary equipment. However, leadership and governance needs to be rigorously explored on their main defects to control the outbreak.

The findings from this study were published in the journal Globalization and Health.

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