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

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

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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