Global Health Law and Access To New Medicine: Ebola, Money Distribution, and The World Bank

What is Global Health Law? Global health law is a field that encompasses the legal norms, processes, and institutions needed to create the conditions for people throughout the world to attain the highest possible level of physical and mental health[1].

Global Health Law is carried out by countries and several major international agencies including the World Bank. As an investment bank, the World Bank provides technical and financial assistance to developing countries with the aims of reducing poverty and increasing development[2]. In addition to poverty and development, the World Bank has played a pivotal role in combating global health pandemics for the last 50 years.

In August 2014 the Ebola pandemic took center stage on a global platform as contraction of the Ebola virus began to escalate at an exponential rate. On August 8th, 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). With the gravity of the impact that Ebola has had West Africa, West African governments became vocal about their need for help. The increase in viral outbreak required the leadership of international health organizations to implement solutions – including new medicine and increased access to medical care.

With the World Bank’s investments into emergency medical care, it has dramatically increased West Africa’s access to medication and medical treatment regarding Ebola. As of early November, the World Bank has mobilized nearly a billion dollars for use in the hardest hit areas in Western Africa, the largest contribution by a single-organization to combatting Ebola. The distribution of money, mostly managed by UNICEF, has provided medical solutions to thousands of people in Western Africa.[3]

There is currently no FDA-approved cure for Ebola. Several pharmaceutical companies have created trial medication to combat the disease, but the medication is not produced in large quantities nor is it guaranteed to work. While the World Bank has been able to mobilize money to provide antibiotics to treat symptoms and side effects of Ebola it has not contributed funding to finding a cure for the disease. As a result, Western countries are acting independently to find a cure through trial medicine. While West Africa has been hardest hit by Ebola, trial medication is currently only being used on Ebola patients in the US and Europe. A disproportionate number of Ebola cases have occurred within West Africa – The US and Europe have a combined total of 7 confirmed Ebola cases, while West Africa has had over 15,000 cases[4].

With the leadership role that the World Bank has taken on, it would be beneficial if the World Bank directed that some of the money acquired be used in conjunction with the WHO and Center For Disease Control (CDC) towards a cure for Ebola. Rather than just providing money towards antibiotics, putting the World Bank’s money behind finding a cure, could positively impact those that need it the most – and not just the Western world.

[1] Gostin, Taylor. “Global Health Law: A Definition and Grand Challenges.” Public Health Ethics (2008): 53-63

[2] World Bank . What We Do. 2014. <http://www.worldbank.org/en/about/what-we-do&gt;.

[3] World Bank Group Ebola Response Fact Sheet. November 2014. <http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/health/brief/world-bank-group-ebola-fact-sheet&gt;

[4] BBC. Ebola: Experimental drugs and vaccines. November 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28663217&gt;.

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