(by Marion Smith, The Federalist) — Did the World Health Organization make the coronavirus pandemic more likely? Undeniably.
On Tuesday, President Trump criticized the international health agency for “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” and halted U.S. funding to it. The president could have added: The World Health Organization has been the Chinese Communist Party’s useful idiot. It has repeated Beijing’s claims despite contrary evidence, withholding the information the world needed to stop the virus’ rapid spread.
The WHO’s actions—or rather inaction—proves its culpability in the coronavirus pandemic. We recently compiled this timeline in a new report that demonstrates how the WHO helped disarm the world in the face of a deadly new virus.
Beijing informed the WHO about pneumonia of unknown cause on Dec. 31, and by Jan. 4, the agency was publicly praising China for “responding proactively and rapidly to the current incident in Wuhan.” Yet even at that early stage, the WHO was ignoring warnings that the coronavirus was much more dangerous than Chinese officials admitted.
By the time China contacted the WHO, the coronavirus had already been spreading within the country since at least mid-November, something Beijing has still failed to disclose. The situation was so serious that Taiwan also notified the WHO about the coronavirus in late December.
Taiwan—which China has blocked from cooperating with the WHO—flagged the reality of human-to-human transmission occurring, meaning the virus had the potential to infect huge numbers of people. China had already reached the same conclusion, yet destroyed the evidence instead of reporting it.
The WHO completely ignored the Taiwanese warning, choosing to trust Beijing instead. On Jan. 14, the agency repeated the Chinese assertion that there was no “clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” It maintained this position until after Jan. 20, when Chinese authorities finally acknowledged that the coronavirus was spreading between humans. Had the WHO acted earlier, the coronavirus could potentially have been contained in China.
This clear mistake failed to shake the WHO from uncritically accepting China’s positions. Through at least late January, the agency urged other nations to maintain full trade and travel relations with China, heeding Beijing’s desire not to isolate the country.
The WHO also downplayed the seriousness of the crisis. On Jan. 23, the agency’s director-general stated the coronavirus was “not yet a global health emergency.” When the agency finally issued such a declaration on Jan. 30, it was after an official WHO visit to Beijing, which led the director-general to laud “China’s commitment to transparency and to protecting the world’s people.”
He also said the WHO “continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” and that China has “set a new standard.” Such flattery ignored the facts and lulled the world into a false sense of security.
But the WHO didn’t simply accept China’s claims as gospel truth. Starting in February, the agency went a step further, defending China from deserved criticism.
As Western officials and media outlets began pointing to China’s domestic crackdown on information and deceptive health claims, the director-general remarked on Feb. 8 that the WHO wasn’t “just battling the virus; we’re also battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response.” A steady stream of similar comments has continued.
Yet the agency has yet to say a word about China’s misinformation. By blindly believing Beijing’s claims, the WHO wasted precious days, in which a pandemic went from possible to inevitable. Even its declaration of a pandemic on March 11 came far too late, when the virus had already spread to 114 countries.
A month later, the WHO still shows no signs of admitting its errors, much less questioning China. There is no word about the mounting evidence that Beijing continues to falsify its illness and death counts, no suspicion at China’s unlikely claims of no new coronavirus cases for days in a row, no criticism of the recent revelations that Chinese officials and state-owned companies plundered global medical supplies in January, even as Beijing covered up the situation at home. The WHO’s silence is perhaps more telling than its continued applause of China’s oppressive actions and supposed success.
President Trump pointed out many of the WHO’s errors on Tuesday. The United States should continue to withhold funding from the agency until it is seriously reformed. At the very least, its leadership should be removed, China should be suspended from full membership, and Taiwan admitted.
That’s the minimum needed for the World Health Organization to fulfill its mission rather than being a mouthpiece for Chinese Communist propaganda.
Marion Smith is the executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. and president of the Common Sense Society, an educational foundation active in Europe and the United States.
Published April 15, 2020 at thefederalist .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Federalist.
The U.S. pays more than $400 million in American tax dollars to the WHO, while China pays $44 million. Following multiple reports detailing problems with the WHO and questioning WHO leader Tedros’ integrity, President Trump has put a freeze on the U.S. dues, saying the funds would for now be given to other organizations working to treat health issues around the world.
(The UK Daily Mail notes “The British and US governments [2 out of the 191 UN member countries] fund about a quarter of WHO’s $2.2 billion annual budget, while China gave $44.3 million last year.)
From a report by The Hill headlined: Trump WHO cuts meet with furious blowback
President Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting with furious blowback from business groups, Democrats, foreign leaders and health groups, who say he is jeopardizing the global response to the pandemic.
While Republicans, some of who have joined Trump’s criticism of the WHO, have not slammed the decision to halt funding, the White House is coming under attack from many other directions over the issue.
Reuters reports, “Trump’s move prompted condemnation from world leaders…” and asserts that “The United States is the world’s worst-affected country” without noting that many have pointed out our numbers are honest, China’s are not, and other countries might not be competent to provide accurate numbers.
Reuters reports on the official reaction from Democrats: House Speaker Pelosi said of President Trump’s announcement, “The President’s halting of funding to the WHO as it leads the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic is senseless. This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”
Democrats have been largely dismissive of claims of Chinese duplicity, instead focusing criticism on the Trump administration’s response. “The reason that we are in the crisis that we are today is not because of anything that China did, not because of anything the WHO did, it’s because of what this president did,” Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said Tuesday.
1. Considering the damning evidence against the WHO, why do you think Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has slammed the president for putting a hold on the $400 million U.S. tax dollars going to the WHO each year?
2. Should politics play a role in the issue of the WHO’s corruption, or should the Democrats stand with the President on this issue? Explain your answer.
3. Ask a parent the same questions. Discuss your answers.
The Problem with Tedros, Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO:
Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO), who has a doctorate in philosophy, was previously a senior figure in one of Africa’s most repressive regimes which was strongly backed by Beijing.
He won the top job at WHO with support of China despite controversy over his time as Ethiopia’s health minister and contested claims about covering up cholera epidemics in the country in 2006, 2009, and 2011.
Tedros has also been condemned for seeking to honor the Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe. …..
Taiwan is not a WHO member, because of objections from China, which claims the island as its own and deems it to have no right to membership of international bodies. China wants to re-absorb Taiwan, a refuge seven decades ago for the nationalist forces defeated by Mao’s communists. Taiwan has remained an independent country for 70 years since the communists took over China.
Under President Xi, China has ramped up bullying of nations, firms or global organizations that show any support to Taiwan.
The WHO, like other UN bodies, appeases China to the extent that Taiwanese passport-holders are unwelcome in WHO buildings. Taiwan has been stopped from even attending the WHO’s influential assembly meetings as observers.
Other major global organisations slavishly toe Beijing’s line by excluding Taiwan. But amid the worldwide threat from coronavirus, this raises critical questions over whether international politics has hampered efforts to protect public health.
It seems the new virus first began appearing in Wuhan last November to the bafflement of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the WHO.
On the same day, Taiwan tipped off the Geneva-based body that it had learned of medical staff in China falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission. Yet it said the information was not shared since the nation is excluded from a key WHO platform.
Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president and an epidemiologist, said the WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission led to crucial delay. ‘An opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.’
The WHO confirms receiving an email mentioning ‘news reports of atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that Wuhan authorities said they believed it was not SARS’ but denies there was any mention of medical staff falling ill.
So why would Tedros be so sympathetic to China? Perhaps it goes back to his time as a top Ethiopian politician. He served in senior roles under Meles Zenawi, who ran a brutal dictatorship with close ties to Beijing, which admired the regime’s authoritarian model of development.
Intriguingly, Tedros was accused of covering up three outbreaks of cholera during his seven years as health minister, although the claims were dismissed as dirty tactics to try to derail his bid to become the WHO boss.
Shortly after starting his new job with the WHO in 2017, he appointed Robert Mugabe as a ‘goodwill ambassador’, only to back down after furious protests from human rights groups pointing out the despot had devastated Zimbabwe’s health service while wrecking his nation.
Mugabe, as head of the African Union and a close ally of China, had helped him win the WHO post. Beijing also used its financial muscle to build support among developing nations, with Xi said to see the achievement as a sign of China’s growing strength.
Some US think-tanks have raised fears over China’s abuse of global bodies, as part of its mission to extend influence across the world – a strategy confirmed by Lianchao Han, a pro-democracy activist who once worked in China’s foreign office. ‘
At first they just wanted to participate to show they were a global power. Now China’s strength has increased, they want to dominate and direct global bodies to push their agenda and model of governance,’ he said. (from an April 4 report by Ian Birrell at UK Daily Mail)