LONDON — An expert panel commissioned by the World Health Organization to investigate its handling of the swine flu pandemic has slammed mistakes made by the UN body and warned that tens of millions could die if there is a severe flu outbreak in the future.
The UN health agency established the review committee to evaluate its performance after the 2009 global outbreak of swine flu, or H1N1. In a draft report released yesterday, the committee said WHO performed well in many ways but made crucial errors.
The group described WHO’s definition of a pandemic and its phases as “needlessly complex,’’ criticized the agency’s decision to keep the members of its advisory committee secret, and said potential conflicts of interest among those experts, some of whom had ties to drug companies, were not well managed.
The expert committee also “found no evidence of malfeasance’’ and said WHO was not influenced by commercial interests in its response to the pandemic.
But it warned that under WHO’s health oversight, the world is not ready to handle a major health disaster in the future.
“The world is ill-prepared to respond to a severe influenza pandemic or to any similarly global, sustained and threatening public health emergency,’’ experts wrote.