UPDATE 2-Lives at risk unless WHO reforms, U.N. report says
* May be last chance to ensure WHO is 'empowered'
* Zika has renewed scrutiny on agency after Ebola outbreak
* Spokeswoman says WHO acknowledges failings, will reform (Adds response from WHO paras 8-10)
By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent
LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization needs urgent reform to boost its ability to respond to crises, and failure to act now could cost thousands of lives, according to an advance copy of a high-level U.N. report.
The report, entitled "Protecting Humanity from Future Health Crises", is the latest in a series of reviews by global health experts which have been sharply critical of the WHO's response to the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
"This may be the last opportunity to ensure the WHO is empowered" to build an effective emergency response capacity, warned an advance, unedited copy of the report by a U.N. panel, made available online over the weekend in a link on the United Nations' daily Journal website.
"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, convened in the wake of the Ebola crisis.
"If the WHO does not successfully reform, the next major pandemic will cause thousands of otherwise preventable deaths." Continuación...