The Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa in 2014 dominated the headlines for months, eclipsing coverage of other medical emergencies. It was an enormously important crisis, with many lessons learned during the response phase and with much work remaining to be done. But if we focus too intently on any single disease, we risk overlooking less spectacular but far more common outbreaks of measles, malaria, cholera, and meningitis that take place every year, with profound consequences and loss of life. As we release this report, in fact, a measles epidemic is battering Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga province, bringing with it extremely high mortality figures.
We must look at outbreaks in their totality – including but not limited to Ebola – to truly gain insight into where MSF as an emergency medical organisation and others can improve our responses and better understand what has worked and what hasn’t. As our report, “Epidemics: Neglected Emergencies”, makes clear, current outbreak response strategies are largely incoherent and must change in some very important ways.