‘President Trump’s aversion to the World Health Organization has been obvious for some time, so it was no surprise when he announced that the US would stop funding it. His decision has prompted a predictable chorus of complaints and howls of despair from all the usual suspects, but for multiple reasons these must be ignored.
First, let’s consider the track record of the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a man who has behaved appallingly during the Covid-19 crisis. While a microbiologist and a malaria researcher, he has no known professional medical training—and yet he is in charge of the United Nations agency which is responsible for global public health. Even if the world had not been struck by coronavirus many would, on this evidence alone, question his fitness for this particular post. But his lack of appropriate credentials are not the half of it.
Formerly, Tedros served as a minister under Ethiopia’s prime minister and president, Meles Zenawi, whose repressive regime had close links to Beijing. Tedros was also on good terms with another China apologist, Zimbabwe’s tyrannical president Robert Mugabe, and in 2017 he even installed Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador (a decision that was reversed after protests from human rights groups). His political background therefore raises legitimate questions about his objectivity in the current pandemic. His actions in recent weeks have merely confirmed his strong admiration for China.
In January, he visited China and met with President Xi Jinping. On his return, he praised the Communist state for its “transparency”, despite it having covered up the true extent of Covid-19 by silencing doctors who wanted to alert the public to the outbreak. Chillingly, it has been reported that three journalist whistleblowers—named as Chen Qiushi, Fang Bing and Li Zehua—remain missing two months after trying to inform the world of the true scale of the outbreak in Wuhan. Although senior figures from the WHO, including Australia’s Professor John Mackenzie, have called China “reprehensible”, Tedros has continued to heap praise on Xi and on his country, saying it should be “congratulated” for protecting “the people of the world”. He even told colleagues he was “very impressed and encouraged by the president’s detailed knowledge of the outbreak.”
Time after time, Tedros has made statements urging other countries not to close their borders to Chinese visitors and has glorified China for setting “a new standard on outbreak control”. Yet it now seems to me that the WHO has, through such sheer imbecilic irresponsibility, actively helped to spread this disease around the world.
Trump is right—neither Tedros nor the WHO is fit for purpose. It’s just a shame that Trump didn’t go further by calling for the abolition of the WHO. It cannot convincingly claim to be politically neutral and its policy platform appears to be up for sale to the highest bidder. For a global health outfit, it has some terribly unhealthy habits.’