By Owei Lakemfa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) which is coordinating and leading humanity’s war against the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, is ironically under attack by the United States (US) itself, the country most devastated by the virus.
US President Donald Trump sees the world as a stage in which he must play the lead role. In a quixotic manner, he proclaimed himself as a wartime leader commanding the forces against the virus. He is right, this is a war and the human race already has over two million infected and more than 136,000 deaths within the last fifteen weeks.
However, it is not a war fought by the conventional forces in military fatigue or camouflage. In fact, modern troop carriers of the most advanced Navies each carrying thousands of troops, are being abandoned without a shot.
This war is being fought and led by courageous men and women in white overall and nursing uniform, and coordinated by the WHO which was established in 1948 as the directing and coordinating authority for international health matters and public health. Its mission is to improve people’s lives, reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to stop the transmission of infectious agents in the world.
Given the fact that the WHO is the Central Command against the Covid-19 War, the distracting, pointless and childish attacks against it by the US is like a mutiny at the war front. The WHO has led humanity against a number of pandemics such as the Asian Flu which claimed 1.1million lives, HIV/AIDS, Swine Flu and the Ebola and Zika Virus epidemics, and has the distinction of eradicating small pox from the world.
The world was caught off guard when Covid-19 crept on her. The first hint was on December 30, 2019 when Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang raised the alarm. On January 20, 2020 China declared an emergency. That same month, the WHO in lightning speed, produced Covid-19 tests which it shipped to dozens of countries including the US. But the Trump administration declined to use these. Rather, it decided to produce its own. Unfortunately, the test kit it developed was faulty which led to a huge testing backlog. This delay, gave room for the virus to spread to the extent that Wednesday, this week, it had infected 609,400 Americans and claimed some 28,300 lives in the country.
Rather than blame itself for the spread, and for its lackadaisical attitude including claiming that the virus is not a serious threat and that the country should return to work, the Trump administration is accusing the WHO of being slow to act!
Also, Trump claimed that the WHO had not quickly investigated early reports coming out of China which made China slack in containing the virus, thereby allowing it to spread across the world. Trump last week said based on this: “The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable.”
I do not buy this narrative because in quickly alerting the world and providing Covid-19 test kits to dozens of countries within two weeks of China’s declaration of emergency, the WHO moved at supersonic speed.
Trump’s claim that China was slack and the WHO was guilty in not getting that country to act fast enough to contain Covid-19, is bizarre. Trump himself had acknowledged China’s quick moves in containing the virus. In his January 24, 2020 tweet, Trump wrote: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!” How can a man lie against himself?
Besides, the world generally acknowledges the fact that China was swift in tackling the virus; the reservation by some is that it used alleged undemocratic methods such as locking down some 500 million people.
So it was not the WHO that was slack or sloppy, it is the American government. To cover its gross incompetence in handling Covid-19, and given the approach of presidential elections, the Trump tribe decided on a fall guy, who else can fit the bill but the WHO?
The American moves against the WHO were first noticeable in February, 2020 when the Trump administration decided to cut its 2019 $452 million funding contribution to the WHO to $57.9 million. This 2019 contribution which is 15 percent of the WHO annual budget has been the traditional American funding for the organization.
After muted attacks, in the last few weeks, it opened fire on the WHO and its Director General, the microbiologist, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In hurling his own missile, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on April 8 announced that America was: “reevaluating our funding with respect to the World Health Organization. Organisations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended.”
There were also a lot of attacks and even death threats against the WHO boss who in an uncharacteristic move, on April 8, called a press conference to fight back. Tedros, an African revealed to the press: “I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than two, three months. Abuses, or racist comments, giving me names, Black or Negro. I’m proud of being Black, proud of being Negro. I don’t care, to be honest … even death threats. I don’t give a damn.”
He described European scientists who discussed on French television the possibility of testing Covid-19 vaccines on Africans, as relics of “colonial mentality.” Adding that they insulted: “the whole black community.”
Tedros asked politicians in the world who are attacking him and the WHO to stop the diversions , pleading: “Please quarantine COVID politics. That’s what we want. We don’t care about personal attacks. We care about the life passing every single minute unnecessarily because we couldn’t unite to fight this virus.”
Such pleas fell on deaf ears as President Trump this Tuesday announced that the US is cutting all funding to the WHO.
In unison, the world including traditional American allies, Europe, reacted negatively to the American decision. One of the most logical responses was by the President of the American Medical Association, Patrice A. Harris who argued: “During the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the World Health Organization is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier. Cutting funding to the WHO, rather than focusing on solutions, is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world.”
In its silly and inane battles with the WHO, the Trump administration is behaving like a child who proclaims that because he is quarrelling with his head, he would henceforth wear his cap on his navel.