Who holds WHO responsible?

Much of the protection of the COVID-19 pandemic deals with the World Health Organization (WHO) as a reliable, objective source of details. Should it?

From the introduction of COVID-19, the WHO’s interview have actually been a component in global news protection. They function as an example for reporters and, considered that the WHO has 194 member states, the pressers have actually ended up being a main source of details for global context.

“The WHO does shape information globally quite significantly,” states Lawrence Gostin, a teacher in global health law at Georgetown University who has actually worked carefully with the WHO in the past, “because it is a trusted and objective science adviser to the world”.

Nevertheless, the organisation’s neutrality has actually been cast doubt on. When China media experts began observing a resemblance in between what the WHO was stating and official declarations coming out of China, it began in early January. On January 14, the WHO tweeted: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus”.

That very same day, the Wuhan Health Commission’s public publication stated, “We have not found proof for human-to-human transmission.” The concern is, why would the WHO repeat – nearly verbatim – the claims made by China when news outlets, in Hong Kong and somewhere else, were currently comparing the unique coronavirus to SARS and stating that it could effectively be moved from individual to individual? The response boils down to gain access to. China just gave the WHO access to Wuhan in February 2020, almost 3 months after the first case was spotted.

“WHO’s reporting, by virtue of its governance, is highly dependent on every member country’s ability, honesty and willingness to share data and issue notifications of epidemics,” states Osman Dar, director of the Global Health Program at Chatham House. “Its verification systems can only be as good as the access their member states provide.”

Which is the core of the problem. Member states are not beholden to the WHO however rather the WHO is beholden to them. Not just is the organisation’s gain access to, in big part, identified by its member states, however they likewise comprise the majority of the WHO’s financing.

On April 15, United States President Donald Trump threatened to stop his nation’s financing to the WHO, implicating the organisation of being China-centric. The president’s critics state the risk was an effort to deflect criticism of Trump’s own mishandling of this crisis; nevertheless, his actions highlight a crucial vulnerability in the WHO.

The United States is, without a doubt, the organisation’s greatest funder and if Washington follows through with Trump’s risk, then that would badly impede its functional capability. Which pleads the concern – how can the WHO speak truth to power when those powers mainly manage its gain access to and its financing?

“It’s not totally neutral. If you’re seeing something coming from the WHO, it’s something that its member states wanted to be released, it is something that a member state consented to be released,” states Stephen Buranyi, a reporter at The Guardian paper, “to see the full picture, you have to go beyond what states are telling it.”

Produced by:

Nicholas Muirhead


Lawrence Gostin – Director, O’Neill Institute, Georgetown University

Osman Dar – Global Health Program, Chatham House

Stephen Buranyi – Reporter, The Guardian

Rana Mitter – Director, China Centre, Oxford University

Source:   Al Jazeera News

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