Less Than Half Of The Money Pledged To Fight Ebola Reached Affected Countries Last Year

02/07/2015 11:47 am ET | Updated Feb 09, 2015

Nearly $2.9 billion has been pledged to help fight the Ebola outbreak since it swept West Africa last year, but a new study found a large discrepancy between the funds pledged and the amount that actually reached the affected countries.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a study in the British Medical Journal that revealed roughly 40 percent, or around $1.09 billion, of the pledged funds actually went to the countries in need by the end of 2014.

Karen Grepin, the author of the study and an assistant professor of global health policy at NYU, explained to HuffPost Live on Thursday that this discrepancy isn't the fault of the "relatively generous" donors, but rather the international community's slow response and inability to fully understand what was needed to combat Ebola.

"The ask from the international leaders went from something like $100 million at the beginning of August to a billion dollars four weeks later. So people just didn't have a sense of what this would take," she told host Alyona Minkovski.

Grepin said the U.N. and the World Health Organization were initially hesitant to declare the Ebola epidemic a public health emergency. Health officials described the outbreak as a humanitarian crisis late last year.

"This is the first time that a public health threat -- so just a public health issue -- has elevated itself to the level of a humanitarian crisis. It’s possible that it never had to become one," Grepin said. "It’s possible that had we reacted and treated this as a public health threat earlier in the game, we wouldn't have seen this bigger humanitarian response."

The study points to recommendations, Grepin explained, on how to better handle another public health emergency, including more prevention measures on behalf of organizations and non-financial resources like medical aid being readily available.

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  • John Moore/Getty Images
    Bindu Quaye poses for photos with flower girls before her wedding reception on Jan. 24, 2015 in Monrovia, Liberia. Like many couples, Quaye and her groom, Clarence Murvee, waited until the worst of the Ebola epidemic had passed before scheduling their wedding. In order to control the outbreak, the government and international aid agencies discouraged public gatherings and physical touching. With Ebola cases now in single digits nationwide, people have begun to return to normal life.
  • John Moore/Getty Images
    Youth play soccer on 'Miami Beach' in Monrovia, Liberia on Jan. 25, 2015.
  • John Moore/Getty Images
    A congregation prays during a Sunday service at the Bethel World Outreach Church in the West Point township in Monrovia, Liberia on Jan. 25, 2015.
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    Liberians socialize on 'Miami Beach' in Monrovia, Liberia on Jan. 25, 2015.
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    A boy climbs aboard a fishing boat docked in the West Point township in Monrovia, Liberia on Jan. 24, 2015.
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    Lawmakers and guests gather to hear Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf deliver her State of the Nation address to a joint session of the Liberian legislature in Monrovia on Jan. 26, 2015. Sirleaf lauded Liberia's efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, noting that the country currently only has five confirmed cases of the virus nationwide.
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    Liberian police hold hands to form a human chain while waiting for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to emerge from the national legislature building in Monrovia on Jan. 26, 2015.
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    Students wait to register at Tubman High School in Monrovia on Jan. 27, 2015.
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    Ebola survivor Jessy Amos, 45, now an employee of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), watches after setting fire to part of the Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, Liberia, on Jan. 26, 2015. MSF, which was one of the first aid organizations to respond to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, is destroying much of the ELWA 3 high-risk treatment area in light of recent gains in eradicating the disease. In addition, other aid organizations have built ETUs, creating more bed space for Ebola victims around the capital of Monrovia.
  • John Moore/Getty Images
    Health workers from MSF stand during prayers before the burning of a section of their Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville on Jan. 26, 2015.
  • John Moore/Getty Images
    UNICEF workers assemble 'school infection prevention kits' in Monrovia to stop the spread of Ebola in schools on Jan. 28, 2015.
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    A Liberian Red Cross burial team in Ebola protectant clothing collects the body of a toddler from a home in the West Point township in Monrovia on Jan. 28, 2015.
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    A grave digger works in a cemetery for 'safe burials' in Disco Hill, Liberia on Jan. 27, 2015. The cemetery, operated by USAID-funded Global Communities, has buried almost 300 people in its first month of operation, with increasingly fewer of the bodies coming from Ebola Treatment Units, as infection rates decline. The cemetery, where burial team members wear protective clothing, has been seen in Monrovia as a major achievement, as families of deceased loved ones are permitted to view the burials, important in Liberian culture. In an effort to control the Ebola epidemic in 2014, the Liberian government had ordered the cremation of all deceased in the capital, often further traumatizing surviving family members and unintentionally encouraging many families to hide their dead for secret burials.
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