May 24, 2024

Has WHO blotted its copybook by being too cosy with China?

WHO has neglected the negative externalities of social distancing

The World Health Organization is being criticised for being too close to China, one of his major funders. Director-General Tedros Adhanom has been loud in his praise of China’s management of the epidemic and has failed (in the eyes of his critics) to point out its shortcomings.

In a blistering article in Foreign Policy, a German journalist, Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup, says that “while recommending China’s epidemic control policy to the world, WHO neglected the negative externalities—from economic damage to the failure to treat many non-coronavirus patients, psychological woes, and human rights costs.”

In Rolling Stone, Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab, says: “In some respects, with China taking these extraordinary measures and WHO praising them, we now live in a new world when it comes to human rights in health emergencies.”

And in The Telegraph (London), science journalist Matt Ridley writes that “WHO is ‘not fit for mission’ … [and] riddled with politics and bureaucracy.” He accuses WHO of three failures. First, it failed to prepare the world for a pandemic, focusing instead on obesity,smoking and climate change. Second, it sycophantically praised China’s response to Covid-19. And third, it failed to respond quickly and effectively to the Ebola outbreak of 2014. At its height the former director, Margaret Chan, called climate change the “defining issue of the 21st century”. In retrospect that seems like a bad call.

“WHO gives the impression it would rather reprimand rich countries for climate change or bad eating habits than worry about epidemics,” Ridley concludes sardonically.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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