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Is WHO Responsible for COVID-19 Outbreak

Recently World Health Organisation (WHO) is being criticized for The Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak, Let’s understand all facts regarding this.

World Health Organization WHO
World Health Organization WHO

What is WHO:

The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for international public health. WHO was established on 7th April 1948, which is also commemorated as World Health Day, It’s headquarters are situated in Geneva, Switzerland and present Director general of the World Health Organization since 2017 is Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is an Ethiopian politician and academic. He previously served in the Government of Ethiopia as Minister of Health from 2005 to 2012 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016.

Role and Responsibilities of WHO:

  • To provide leadership on matters related to critical health and engaging in partnerships where the joint action is needed;
  • To shape the research agenda and stimulate the generation, translation, and dissemination of valuable knowledge
  • To set up norms and standards to promote and monitor their implementation.
  • To articulate ethical and evidence-based policy options.
  • To provide technical support, catalyze the changes and to build sustainable institutional capacity
  • To monitor the health situation and assessing health trends.
  •  To provide monitoring of vital events (birth, death, wedding, divorce) CRVS (Civil Registration and Vital Statistics)

Relationship between China & Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa, which shares borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent. According to the IMF, at one particular time, Ethiopia was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Chinese direct investment in Ethiopia had reached US$4 billion which in turn reached US$900 million by 2009 and bilateral trade had grown to $5.4 billion. China provided over $12 billion in loan finance (usually for the infrastructure projects undertaken by Chinese firms). There is hike in Chinese investment in the Ethiopian economy, the imports of cheap consumer goods and supplying it to local construction and manufacturing firms on a lease-to-buy basis from China was around US $3.4 billion in 2015. Greatly exceeding of exports from Ethiopia to China have grown from negligible levels ($380 million in 2015) primarily in raw materials such as sesame seeds and partially finished leather.

Chinese aid to Ethiopia also includes dispatch of medical teams and teachers and educational scholarships for Ethiopian students studying in China.

Origin of COVID – 19:

The Coronavirus disease – 19 (SARS CoV2) was originated from the seafood market of Wuhan, China where the wild animals like rabbit, birds, snake etc are traded illegally. Initially, the Chinese government slowed down the process of reporting the continuous pneumonia cases in Wuhan population. According to few reports, 1st confirmed case of CoV2 (Chinese virus) was observed in November 2019 but Chinese government silenced the whistleblowers and downplayed the threat, which was later reported to WHO on 31st December 2019 by the Chinese government.

Mistakes by WHO:

Even though it was confirmed by various observations that it is a human to human transmission, WHO still tweeted on its official handle that “Chinese authorities have found no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel Coronavirus”.

By 16th Jan 2020 the disease has turned into an epidemic and as a result, many countries like USA and India have restricted its flight to and fro from China and also issued some travel advisories like entry screening, isolation etc. These steps of travel advisory from many countries were contradicted by WHO by stating that “WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers to and from Wuhan”.

On 28th Jan 2020, Director-General Dr. Tedros visited  China which got the lockdown on 23rd Jan 2020 to observe the ground situation there and its Response against the disease outbreak and commended that China has “set-up a new standard for outbreak control” and praised the country’s leadership quality for its “openness to share information” with WHO and other health organizations of various countries about the virus outbreak, which we all aware that China has delayed in sharing the correct information at its earliest stage.

While the WHO’s emergency committee was thinking whether to declare Covid-2 as pandemic and about the worse scenario of the world due to its outbreak, Dr. Tedros decided to wait despite admitting that “this is an emergency in China.” And a week later, he declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency of international concern. By this point of time the count has been reached to Approx 8,000 across the world.

Dr. Tedros’s inactions stand in stark contrast to the WHO’s actions during the SARS outbreak in China in 2003. Then DG Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland of WHO created history by announcing WHO’s a first travel advisory in 55 years which recommends to travel to and fro from the disease epicentre in southern China. Dr. Gro Harlem also criticized China for endangering global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistleblowers and censoring media. 

China’s Contribution to WHO:

Since the day, WHO has founded it required voluntary budget contributions to meet its broad mandate in the health sector. In recent years, the WHO is facing budget deficits and has grown more reliant upon these funds as to fight against the recent outbreaks of Zika, Ebola and other viruses. Countries assessed contributions have grown by only 3% since 2014. Extra-budgetary voluntary contributions have grown by 18% i.e. from $3.9 billion in 2014-15 to nearly $4.7 billion in 2018-19. Since 2014 China’s WHO contributions have grown by 52% which is approximately $86 million. This is basically due to China’s increase in assessed contributions which depends on a country’s economic development and its population. The growing contributions have positively affected China’s influence across the UN by rising its leadership just as the U.S. is declining.

Conclusion:

The WHO’s weak response to China’s mishandling of the Coronavirus disease-19 outbreak has washed-out China’s image at the expense of the WHO’s credibility. The rate of Covid-19 infection in China appears to be declining, but the risk at the global level is increasing up to its extent. The time is ripe for clear leadership from the WHO on the basis of science and not politics.

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