Initial responses to disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, Ebola, and Sars can be characterized by confusion, chaos and denial.

While an individual country can be overwhelmed by a serious outbreak, mobilizing the assistance needed internationally can help prevent an epidemic.

But the window of opportunity to respond effectively closes rapidly, and outbreaks quickly become a humanitarian crisis.

Issues to tackle can include political manoeuvring, inadequate financial agility, a lack of coordination, ambivalence towards response structures, and tensions in key relationships.