'The world deserves a better, totally transparent and accountable, WHO' 'The World Health Organization must step up' ( April 13,2020 )
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jasper2529 • last year • 4 comments
By: Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04)
Seventy-two years ago, this week—on April 7, 1948—the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded to organize global responses to infectious disease pandemics that respect no national boundaries.
Its effectiveness depends heavily on the good will of its member states, and the competence and trustworthiness of its leadership.
The coronavirus pandemic revealed China’s malign influence on the leadership of WHO, and a glaring accountability and transparency deficit at WHO centered around Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros dutifully echoed Chinese talking points on person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus while ignoring Taiwan’s contrary evidence, whom the WHO ostracized because of China.
This isn’t the first time WHO has minimalized a major infectious disease emergency due to political pressure. In 2014, WHO dragged its feet for months before declaring the Ebola outbreak an emergency due to pressure from African governments fearing economic fallout. In March 2014, Doctors Without Borders described the international response to Ebola as “non-existent,” while WHO waited until August 2014, long after the epidemic was out of control, to make the call. When the bill came due for that blunder, more than 11,000 were dead.
When the deadly coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China’s first response was a campaign of human rights abuses suppressing truth-telling. China then leveraged its influence at WHO to minimize the damage to China’s image globally.
Rather than listen to courageous physicians like Li Wenliang, whom China censored , smeared and threatened with arrest for truth-telling, WHO praised China for “ openness to sharing information with WHO and other countries.”
If we want to restore the effectiveness of WHO, first we must promote transparency. The failure of WHO—especially Director-General Tedros—to demand that China permit access to all information in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic requires serious scrutiny.
Following WHO’s bungling of 2014 Ebola outbreak, there should have been a thorough commitment to reform. At the last election for Director-General in 2016, however, the reform candidate that the UK proffered lost after lobbying by China on behalf of Tedros.
At the time of the election, there were credible allegations that Tedros suppressed information about cholera outbreaks in Ethiopia for political reasons, downplaying the disease as “ acute watery diarrhea .”
Such politicized decision-making is consistent with someone who for decades has been a highly ideological actor. Tedros was not only Ethiopia’s health minister, but also a member of the Politburo in a government whose roots were Marxist with close ties to China .
Indeed, Tedros’ WHO tenure is marked by placing politics over health. A month after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tedros removed Dr. Mario Raviglione , the 25-year veteran and well-regarded head of WHO’s Tuberculosis Program—indeed, someone I had worked with as past chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Global Health Subcommittee—and replaced him with a Russian official.
If there is no accountability for such gross mismanagement, promoting public health by WHO becomes a secondary avocation to burnishing China’s global image.To that end, donors must apply pressure akin to that used to promote reform at the Global Fund.
This article was published in the April 14, 2020 print edition of the Washington Times, and online on April 13, 2020 at: