The organisation known as the World Health Organization (WHO) needs to enhance its capacity to respond to crisis and inaction to do so could result in thousands of lost lives, according to a high-level UN report.
"This may be the last opportunity to ensure the WHO is empowered" to build an effective emergency response towards crisis, according to the unedited copy of the UN panel report, entitled "Protecting Humanity from Future Health Crises.”
"The high risk of major health crises is widely underestimated and ... the world's preparedness and capacity to respond is woefully insufficient," said the panel.
The World Health Organization has been under criticism for not taking quick action against the mosquito-born Zika virus, which has been reported in 33 countries, brought forth following the Ebola crisis that struck the world.
The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea and spread across the world, killing more than 11,300 people, mostly in west African countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"If the WHO does not successfully reform, the next major pandemic will cause thousands of otherwise preventable deaths." said the panel.
WHO chiefs previously vowed rapid action against reforms over the agency’s emergency response to heath crisis.
A WHO spokeswoman in Geneva told Reuters that the organisation "is fully committed to urgently reforming our emergency work to address all emergency health risks and events in a predictable, capable, dependable, flexible and accountable manner."
The UN panel has also advised the WHO to build a new Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, which "must have real command and control capability, access to specialised human and operational resources to execute a health response."
The centre must be "strong and independent" according to Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, an independent global charitable foundation, agreeing with the panel’s suggestion to create a new centre.
He said that "Epidemic and pandemic diseases are among the greatest of all threats to human health and security, against which we have for too long done too little to prepare.”