Was the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) a tragic comedy of errors and enabler of deceit in the weeks following the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, China last December?
At the least, the agency’s lollygagging on the virus and deference to China’s spin and secrecy precluded earlier action to stem the spread of Covid-19. WHO’s actions are a reminder of the dubious political nature of the United Nations itself.
The WHO plays a major role in recommending, coordinating and assisting in the prevention of, and response to, public health crises around the world. It has an annual budget near $5 billion.
Earlier this month President Donald Trump announced he was withholding more than $500 million in funding for the WHO, pending a 60-day review of this UN agency’s conduct in the weeks following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China. The U.S. is by far the WHO’s largest financial contributor. As I’ve written, the U.S. needs to go bigger, and extricate from China economically.
Two weeks after the virus from Wuhan was reported to the WHO, the agency tweeted China’s bogus claim that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the coronavirus. Later in January, WHO revised this, but claimed there was “moderate” risk of a worldwide spread. By January 30th, the agency then declared a “public health emergency of international concern.”
It was not until six weeks—mid February—before WHO experts were allowed into China to investigate the outbreak. All along the WHO was parroting China in downplaying the virus. In a statement it embellished China’s “transparency” and later urged countries not to restrict travel to and from China. The Trump administration ignored this inanity and on January 31st imposed travel restrictions on China, and subsequently on Europe.
The World Health Organization has consistently taken China’s word, including opposition to the travel ban, and data on coronavirus, which low-balled the number of people infected by Covid-19. WHO’s subservience to China also reveals itself as it pretends Taiwan does not exist since China views it as a province, rather than independent.
It took the WHO until March 11th to declare Covid-19 a worldwide “pandemic.” By then, 118,000 cases of infection were reported in 114 countries. Italy was the hardest hit nation and, three days earlier, imposed a stay-at-home lockdown.
The WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia has a bias toward China with his praise of the dictatorial government, even as China was covering up the seriousness of the virus back in January.
The WHO’s deference to China is part of a pattern between international organizations and the Communist giant. Though China is not a major donor to the WHO or other UN agencies, it exerts influence by its geopolitical power with other nations in Southeast Asia and Africa with which it has substantial economic and military ties. China’s influence also comes from its role in the UN’s budget committees and its contributions in money and personnel to UN peacekeeping missions.
By contrast, the United States has diminished its role in the United Nations, including its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, two corrupt bureaucracies. UNESCO has long been anti-Israel, while the Council routinely ignored human rights abuses by its member nations, even as it criticized the U.S. and the UN’s favorite villain, Israel.
Then there is the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC has long exaggerated the degree of warming of the planet and its effect, which it claims is all due to mankind’s use of fossil fuels, contrary to scientific evidence. The IPCC’s crying-wolf over its climate predictions is more a means to redistribute wealth from first world nations, starting with the U.S., to “change the economic model,” according to a senior UN climate official. In other words, the UN’s climate agenda, including its crown jewel, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is less about the weather and all about a money-and-power grab.
The WHO’s negligent role in the Covid-19 crisis and its fawning over China during its cover-up calls into question yet another UN agency. The U.S. has wisely diminished its role in UN agencies inimical to its interests, even as it remains the UN’s largest financial contributor overall.
If the WHO leadership also cannot reform itself and become an objective force for global health, the U.S. should continue to redirect funding to other global health agents.