Ebola and Health Systems Resilience

Graphic of a heart representing health rebounding on a trampoline,
Art credit: Tobey Busch/USAID


The 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic demonstrated the effects of weak health systems, threatened global security, and pushed more people into extreme poverty in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. A diminished supply in the health workforce, drug and equipment shortages, and reduced capacity to deliver regular health services devastated health system abilities to adequately respond to the outbreak.

USAID, in partnership with host country governments and international actors like the World Health Organization, designed strategic investments to rebuild the systems and make them resilient to future shocks. Our ongoing efforts to strengthen health systems include:

Hear Dr. Aye Aye Thwin talk about resilient health systems on Global Health TV

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  • Strengthening commodities and supply chains,
  • Improving management and local governance of the health sector,
  • Improving mobile technologies and health information, and
  • Creating sustainable solutions for a qualified health workforce.

Early efforts led to the re-opening of facilities and utilization of regular health services. Ten months after the Ebola crisis hit Liberia, rates of birth delivery in health facilities surpassed pre-Ebola rates, a sign that, although there is more work to do, patient confidence and health system resilience has improved.

The crisis in West Africa demonstrates the importance of health systems resilience. A resilient health system is one that is aware, diverse, self-regulating, integrated, and adaptive.

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