Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently come under scrutiny due to its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about the WHO?
A. This is not the first time the WHO (and the UN) has failed to respond competently to a health crisis.
B. The WHO is an independent international organization that does not cater to dictatorships.
C. Now is the perfect time to halt US funding to the WHO.
Let’s take these statements one at a time.
A. TRUE. The WHO has a poor track record at responding in a timely and competent manner to health crises. Whether it was the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, when the US and other private medical charities had to come to the rescue, or the 2010 Cholera outbreak in Haiti (caused by the United Nations’ own peacekeeping troops), individual nations and charities have repeatedly outperformed the WHO.
As a 2014 editorial in the Wall Street Journal notes, “since the 1990s the WHO has devoted ever-more of its resources to political activism instead of its core disease-fighting mission – a loss of focus that helps explain why the WHO failed to contain Ebola when it was less rampant.” The Ebola mishandling took place under the direction of WHO director-general Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong director of health who was criticized for her slow response to the 2003 SARS outbreak.
B. FALSE. Throughout its mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, the WHO has repeatedly proven that it is in China’s pocket. From repeating Chinese propaganda to condemning the US’s China travel ban and praising China’s coronavirus response, the WHO has shown where its allegiance lies. After conducting a joint mission to China on COVID-19 (carefully curated by the Chinese Communist Party), the WHO gushed about China’s response: “General Secretary Xi Jinping personally directed and deployed the prevention and control work and requested that the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak be the top priority of government at all levels” before providing eight paragraphs about the CCP’s incredible response to the outbreak.
The WHO’s continued support and defense of China throughout this crisis has proven its commitment to political motives instead of scientific and international ones (a March study found that is the Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its global spread would have been much more limited.)
C. TRUE. On April 14th, President Trump ordered a halt of funding for the WHO pending a review of its role in mismanaging the coronavirus. Most media outlets have decried this move, arguing that now, in the midst of a pandemic, is not the time to stop funding the WHO. The United States is by far the largest financial supporter of the WHO, providing over $400 million in funds last year. The WHO’s recent actions show at best, a clueless organization that bungled its role in responding to a global pandemic and at worst, a supposedly “neutral” international organization that is complicit and should be held responsible for its role (along with China). (IWF’s Claudia Rosett has a great OpEd on this here)
For too long has the WHO managed to maintain its guise of objectivity. The coronavirus pandemic has torn away the mask and US taxpayers should not be responsible for its funding.