The case recounts the events of the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola Outbreak, starting with the death of patient zero, a young Guinean boy named Emile Ouamouno in December 2013 and ending in August 2014 when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), an international legal tool aimed to draw additional attention and resources to particular health events which present a global risk. In doing so, the case particularly examines the role of the World Health Organization, a key actor in the epidemic, and provides further context into the strategy, finances, and organizational design of the organization. Additional information related to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), infectious disease epidemics, and the socioeconomic and political context of the three countries most affected by the outbreak (Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea) is also provided. The case study draws upon interviews with key experts involved in both the management of the epidemic and its aftermath, including Dr. Suerie Moon, Study Director of the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, Amb. Jimmy Kolker, then Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Bruce Aylward, Special Representative of the Director-General for the Ebola Response from September 2014 to July 2016.
The case is accompanied by an epilogue which retraces events after the PHEIC was declared in August 2014, and provides several quotes from key stakeholders involved in the outbreak, providing further context into how the epidemic was eventually contained, and which lessons could be learned from it.
The case invites students to consider the challenges presented when a crisis spills outside national borders and to examine the limitations in the leadership and strategic management of global governance and non-governmental institutions in response. The case illustrates the differential effect on perception, (crisis) recognition, interpretation and decision of organizational processes, culture, history, and individual experience of key leaders.