Have countries turned their back on the World Health Organisation? – Liberal Article
What will be very interesting is to see how scholars view COVID-19. In the last 20 years, we have entered a world dominated by NGO’s. This, and rightly so, gives some moral authority to the chaos of International Relations. One of the cornerstones of this was The World Health Organisation (WHO). They are an organisation that leads the world against possible health crises.
However, this has unfortunately not been the case during the current pandemic. David Fidler, who is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a regular consultant to the WHO, said: “You’ve got a situation where it looks like WHO doesn’t want to exercise its authority”. Why is this the case?
Firstly, countries are to blame. Warnings were ignored – “the US largely did, the UK largely did”. The US is a massive anomaly at the moment. It is currently struggling with 22 million people unemployed, a poor healthcare system and a lack of equipment it has had to seize from Germany. To add to this, people are protesting against the quarantine on mass, the stimulus package has crawled across the finish line – a shell of what it should have been – and now Trump is cutting US funding to the WHO.
Although the US appears to be on course to even more failure, most countries are starting to see a plateau of deaths, but this should have been avoided. The WHO released documents as early as 3rd February to help countries prepare, most of whom ignored the request. Even after asserting the gravity of the situation on 11th March, major events such as Cheltenham Festival still went ahead. The UK and other nations didn’t officially go into quarantine until 23rd March.
Despite the WHO’s praise, China is somewhat at fault. The failure to unveil the true nature of the situation to the WHO until mid-January is what has led the country to receive criticism. Despite China’s apology to Dr Li Wenliang’ family and their impressive response to the outbreak since January, questions remain. Could this have been avoided? Although most people seem to think China are hiding there case numbers, the WHO have suggested this isn’t happening anymore.
The final question is, why didn’t the WHO do more? It is clear the WHO knew what was coming, and countries from all around the world blatantly ignored their advice.
How I see it is this: countries are running around like naughty school children, and the teacher is afraid to tell them off. Who do you blame? The teacher or the children?
Germany is a good example of being a good child in the class. Their federalist system, high testing and general good preparedness have meant it has been extremely strong combating the virus.
This pandemic has shown the lack of power the WHO has – the lack of authority and even support. On 5th February, the WHO asked for $675 million from nations around the world to help fight this pandemic. It received $1.2 million a month later.
The most important UN policy is that countries retain their sovereignty. They can ignore the advice and authority of such an organisation like the WHO, but at what cost? I believe the WHO needs a complete overhaul and perhaps, deserves more power to help protect the world from another future health crisis.
Written by Liberal writer, Max Anderson
Point of Information
They had one job… a Conservative response
The World Health Organisation has wholly failed us yet again. It seems as though they have a habit of putting politics before doing their job and saving lives. This is why I would disagree with Mr Anderson. If anything, we should be taking away the little power this organisation has left for the good of the international community.
Despite clear evidence and tip-offs from as early as the beginning of January, the WHO refused to declare a world health crisis. In December 2019 the WHO was told by Taipei officials “that medical staff in China were becoming ill: a clear indication of human-to-human transmission”.
Unfortunately, on the 21st January, the WHO tweeted there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. Due to the organisation’s unforgivably slow response to the domestic outbreak of Covid-19, there has been a “20-fold increase in cases”. That is a very irresponsible ‘teacher’.
This isn’t the first time the WHO has failed to do their job. Their lack of action during the ebola outbreak six years ago has been rightfully criticised. Causing more death and suffering than was necessary. This same problem occurred during the AIDS crisis. In fact, their response to this was so poor that the UN had to create a “separate body for the disease”.
There are many examples of how ineffective the WHO is. It is constantly praising China, yet completely failed to clamp down on the country’s meat markets which likely sparked the pandemic we are now faced with. So can Mr Anderson blame Trump for cutting funding when they have been incapable of doing their job for years?
The WHO has done nothing to prove that they deserve more power. Giving them more, as Mr Anderson suggests, would be highly dangerous.
Written by Conservative writer, Eleanor Roberts
There’s always a scapegoat – a Labour response
I disagree with Mr Anderson’s framing of the WHO as an incompetent teacher. The organisation is an under-utilised, under-funded hub of communication. It is a tool that only works when cooperated with. Unfortunately, cooperation has been sorely lacking.
The WHO’s role is not to lead, but to advise and persuade countries to take the most appropriate action. As the Guardian points out, “It can try to steer member states, but has no sanctions.” Those expecting the organisation to somehow take control or force the hand of states that lag behind blatantly misunderstands both its powers and its level of funding.
When Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, stresses again and again that we need to “test, test, test,” how is he to blame when the demagogues who lead the free world refuse to heed his advice?
Countless deaths are prevented when the WHO is cooperated with, as is the case with Germany and South Korea. The virus has exposed many problems, such as the chronic under-funding of the NHS in the UK, or the frighteningly negligent Presidential response in the USA. However, these problems are domestic, not international.
Yes, the WHO’s relationship with China is troubling and needs urgent scrutiny. But the witch-burning that my Conservative colleague, Ms Roberts, advocates is a pointless and damaging reaction. Once this pandemic subsides, it would be ludicrous to conclude that we have no use for the WHO. We need, more than ever, a respected and impartial authority on health. Member states need to realise that that is not possible without funding or power.
Written by Labour writer, Max Ingleby