As the novel coronavirus incubated in Wuhan from mid-December to mid- January, the Chinese state made evidently intentional misrepresentations to its people concerning the outbreak, providing false assurances to the population. But, WHO is also considered responsible for this pandemic.
World health organisation was established in 1948 with the objective to improve equity in health, reduce health risks, promote healthy lifestyles and settings, and respond to the underlying determinants of health. Studies now proved that china’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 can be traced back to 17 Nov 2019. But, the Chinese government silenced the whistle-blowers and downplayed the threat. Doctor Li Wenliang warned the Chinese government earlier. But his voice was curbed by authorities and later, he died of COVID19.
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WHO Favoured China Despite Knowing The Magnitude Of Problem
China informed the WHO on 31st Dec 2019. On 14 Jan 2020, WHO tweeted from their official handle claiming that there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transfer of COVID-19. But at that time there were several cases which already showing transmission. Taiwan had informed the WHO about it but WHO did not publish it on their website. The WHO has also castigated countries such as India and the USA that have begun to restrict flights to and fro from China or issue travel advisories
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is Director-General of the World Health Organization since 2017 and was an Ethiopian politician and academic. He is alleged of favouring China despite knowing the magnitude of the problem. In addition, he alleged of advocating China because of investment made by China in Ethiopia in wake of “one belt one road” and various other projects. He refrain himself from giving any statement against China.
On January 28, Tedros met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. After knowing the fact that Wuhan was locked down on 23 January, Tedros commended China for “setting a new standard for outbreak control”. He also praised the country’s top leadership for its “openness to sharing information” with the WHO and other countries.
Despite growing evidence of China’s mishandling of the outbreak and rising domestic Chinese outrage over the government’s censorship, Tedros remains unmoved. At the Munich Security Conference on February 20, Tedros doubled down on his praise for China stating that “China has bought the world time.”
Dr Tedros’ inaction stands in contrast to the WHO’s actions during the 2003 SARS outbreak in China. There were 800 deaths in 2003 but the WHO nevertheless took solid action.
Then DG of WHO, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland made history by declaring WHO first travel advisory in 55 years. Dr Brundtland also criticized China for endangering global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistle-blowers and censoring media.
More concerning is Tedro’s delay in declaring COVID-19 as pandemic. As final authority lies with DG, Tedro decided to wait despite admitting that “there is an emergency in China”. A week later he declared it as PHEIC. By that point, the Confirmed cases had increased tenfold.
Another reason for favouring china was Money. As always, it is important to follow the money. Since its founding, WHO required voluntary budget contribution to meet its broad mandate. China’s WHO contributions have grown by 52% since 2014 to approximately $86 million. This helps in influencing the international level body like WHO.
China was also an important ally of Tedros in WHO’s DG election in 2017. China diplomatic move of calling Tedros to Peking University, where he called strong co-operation between China and Global south on health issues is added evidence of his love towards China. The day after his electoral victory, Tedros confirmed to Chinese state media that he and the WHO will continue to support the “One China” principle.
WHO is also facing criticism for the naming of coronavirus disease(COVID-19. The name of the disease is usually taken from the place or any river nearby where it evolves, for example – Ebola virus, Zika virus. WHO abstain from naming it as China Virus or Wuhan virus. When the US president called it a China virus, he faced a lot of criticism.
Taiwan exclusion from WHO membership is also a political move of China by influencing and controlling WHO. Without a membership, Taiwan must rely on China’s health department for outbreak information often with delays ranging from several days to weeks.
If WHO took sound decisions earlier, then we could have saved thousands of lives. The WHO’s weak response to China’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak has laundered China’s image at the expense of the WHO’s credibility. The rate of infection in China appears to be declining, but the risk of a global pandemic is increasing. The time is ripe for clear leadership from the WHO based on science, not politics.
Thank you for reading !
Written by : SHUBHAM DALMOTRA