Thursday, April 23, 2020

The United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) is Not a Neutral Player - by Ricki Hollander

Were the WHO really interested in improving Palestinian healthcare, it would examine all the factors involved in regulating healthcare. But like the Hamas Health Ministry, the WHO seems more concerned with spreading anti-Israel propaganda than in seeking improvement to Palestinian healthcare.

Ricki Hollander..
20 April '20..

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency responsible for international health under the helm of Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has been increasingly criticized for playing politics by allowing China to downplay and conceal information about the novel coronavirus outbreak in that country, for refusing to declare Covid-19 a global emergency from the get-go, and opposing travel bans to China.

Tedros, an Ethiopian microbiologist who was elected for a 5–year-term as director general of the UN’s health organization in 2017, met with the president of the People’s Republic of China in late January to deferentially laud “the actions China has implemented in response to the outbreak, its speed in identifying the virus and openness to sharing information with WHO and other countries.” He expressed appreciation on behalf of the WHO for China’s “seriousness” and “transparency” in its approach to the epidemic. But more and more information emerges about China’s concealment of the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak, under-reporting both the numbers of infections and deaths from the disease, and as a result worsened the impact of the pandemic in the U.S. and European countries. As skepticism and criticism of China’s actions mounted across the world, China publicly revised the number of deaths in Wuhan upward by 50%.

Yet, while the WHO was praising China’s handling of the situation, China’s Communist authorities censored information about victims of the disease and muzzled physicians who tried to sound early warnings about its outbreak. Citizen journalists who were posting videos and stories from inside Wuhan suddenly disappeared and American journalists from The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street journal were expelled from China. Even after Chinese officials recognized the gravity of a looming pandemic, health officials continued to publicly downplay the threat. Publication of academic research on the origin of the virus was subject to vetting and approval by Chinese central government officials.

The Chinese government informed the WHO about the virus outbreak at the end of December, a month after it was first detected in Wuhan, but imposed a lockdown on that city only toward the end of January, allowing people to gather in large numbers and to travel in and out of the disease’s epicenter. The WHO leadership, rather than alerting the rest of the world to the threat of the pandemic, chose to pander to the Chinese government, echoing its own public statements and praising its actions while opposing travel bans to China.

A Wall Street Journal editorial points out that the coronavirus epidemic “has exposed the [WHO’s] process for declaring emergencies as prone to politicization…” But this was not the first time that the WHO director-general has been criticized for allowing political considerations to influence him to cover up epidemics and human rights abuses. Nor is it the first time the WHO has been criticized for using its platform for partisan propaganda.

Much the same can be said of the WHO’s politicization of healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza.

While Israel is one of the WHO’s 194 member states and belongs to the European region, the West Bank and Gaza belong to the Eastern Mediterranean region, made up of largely Arab and Muslim countries. The only non-state included in the Eastern Mediterranean region is the West Bank and Gaza Strip, referred to by the WHO as “Palestine.” The Eastern Mediterranean regional office is located in Cairo, with a country/territory office for the West Bank and Gaza located in Jerusalem and two additional sub-offices in Ramallah and Gaza.

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