All the usual suspects are condemning President Trump for suspending US funding for the World Health Organization, but it was clearly the right call. WHO’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic needs confronting before it does more damage.
In particular, the organization spent weeks echoing Beijing’s lies about the threat and urging action that served the needs of China’s rulers — but not the world’s health.
Consider: Taiwanese experts warned in December that the virus spread rapidly from human to human — but WHO ignored Taiwan, simply because Beijing refuses to recognize the island’s government.
Indeed, China only contacted WHO about the virus on Dec. 31 and insisted there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. In fact, we now know that Beijing knew otherwise but destroyed the evidence.
Yet the world body duly echoed China’s line for weeks, praising Beijing on Jan. 4 for “responding proactively and rapidly to the current incident in Wuhan” and echoing China’s claim of “no evidence of human-to-human transmission” on Jan. 14, before finally admitting the truth on Jan. 20.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a particular villain. On Jan. 23, he declared that the virus was “not yet a global health emergency.” A week later, the agency did declare that emergency — as Tedros cheered “China’s commitment to transparency and to protecting the world’s people.”
The week after that, he complained about “the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response” as WHO warned the world against limiting travel from and trade with the source of the contagion.
Not until March 11 did the agency even declare a COVID-19 pandemic, after the bug had spread to more than 100 countries.
“The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion,” Trump said Tuesday. And it “must be held accountable.”
Some admit WHO’s bungling but insist that the agency is needed now to coordinate the world response. But the world is better off coordinating without the “help” of an agency that’s been packed with Beijing loyalists ever since 2006, when China engineered the selection of Dr. Margaret Chan as its director-general. (Tedros was also Beijing’s pick, in 2017.)
US taxpayers send WHO about $450 million a year, some 15 percent of its budget; China, just $40 million — yet the agency echoes Beijing’s line faithfully, having yet to acknowledge any of China’s deceptions.
This is not a permanent end to that US funding: It’s a wake-up call that WHO must clean house to become truly non-political before it can be trusted with its official mission: “To promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.”
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