The World Health Organization needs to be held accountable for its mistakes

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, diretor-geral da Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS), na sede da Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC), em Genebra, Suíça, 23 de março de 2022.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland , of March 2022.| Photo: EFE/EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

The covid pandemic should sound like a warning to the fact that there is something very wrong – irreparable, even – in the World Health Organization. This revelation should not be surprising. After all, the WHO is part of the United Nations, firm and strong in incompetence and politicization.

From the beginning, government officials, health experts and analysts have expressed concerns about the WHO’s inept response to the coronavirus, accusing the organization of giving undeserved confidence to the Chinese government, which at first tried to hide the outbreak in Wuhan. Taro Aso, Japan’s deputy prime minister and economy minister, even made fun of the WHO, calling it the Chinese Health Organization. Rather than scolding Beijing for the cover-up attempt, UN Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his “extremely rare leadership” and praised the Chinese Communist Party’s “transparency” in responding to the virus. Few would deny that Tedros and the WHO were late in declaring a global health emergency and then a pandemic. But the latest WHO mess is jaw-dropping.

A Medicago, a Canadian company, developed a covid vaccine synthesized in a plant of the genus Nicotiana , related to tobacco. In clinical trials, the vaccine proved to be 71% effective against all variants studied before the emergence of the Ômicron variant and 23% effective against Delta. Canada’s health department approved the vaccine for home use in February, but its global rollout has encountered an unexpected hurdle: WHO will not consider approving the vaccine for wider use because of the manufacturer’s ties to the Swiss-based company. American Philip Morris International, owner of approximately one third of Medicago shares.

Rich countries now have a vast stock of covid vaccines, but WHO authorization for Medicago’s Civifenz vaccine is crucial to expand access to vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, as it would qualify for inclusion in the institution’s COVAX global vaccine program. Access to Covifenz would especially help countries that do not have sophisticated medical infrastructure, because unlike some of the other covid vaccines, Covifenz does not need storage in a super-cold freezer. Medicago may find a way around the problem — Philip Morris could sell the company’s shares, for example — but the WHO’s current intransigence denies relief to countries that the COVAX program itself is designed to help.

This recent blunder should urge the United States, as the WHO’s largest donor, to conduct a in-depth review of the organization’s competencies and values. Global public health is in American interests not only because Americans are a generous people, but also because, as Covid has reminded us, public health battles that are not won overseas will find their way to our shores. . We would be remiss if we gave money to public health organizations without ordering good management.

Taxpaying Americans are the largest contributors to the WHO’s approximately $2 billion budget. Like other United Nations organizations, the WHO is plagued by wasteful spending, lack of concern for transparency, incompetence and even failure to adhere to the most basic democratic standards. Its Western Hemisphere subsidiary, the Pan American Health Organization, supports undemocratic regimes and actually “weakens public health rather than strengthening it,” according to a Wall Street Journal article.

The history of the WHO is full of ineptitude and ethically compromised agreements. In its policy to eradicate polio in Syria, for example, health workers were only allowed to work with the brutal and corrupt regime of Bashar al-Assad, but not in rebel areas. So while the WHO did contain polio within government territory, the disease spread in rebel areas. The WHO was also widely condemned for failing to raise the alarm about the dangers of Ebola in West Africa in 768 . The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer is famous for issuing alarmist reports that are often contradicted by regulators around the world. When a US parliamentary committee attempted to investigate the (well-founded) allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest within the agency, the agency rejected the effort.

What explains the dubious conduct of the WHO? Let’s look at the structure of the UN.

First of all, the UN is essentially a monopoly. “Consumers” of UN products and services cannot punish the organization by playing the part of competitors. On the contrary: inadequacy is always rewarded with extra resources. Unlike the private sector, where failed projects are despised, bureaucrats often advocate and clamor to expand programs that clearly don’t work.

Second, UN officials are rewarded for making the bureaucratic machinery work – producing reports, guidelines, agreements, and attending meetings – despite their efforts proving to be effective. Bureaucrats typically sacrifice quality and veracity for the sake of consensus.

Third, no authority holds the UN accountable, and no electorate can dismiss UN officials when they act against the public interest.

Finally, the organization is not a meritocracy. The country or region of origin of leadership candidates appears to be valued more than their qualifications, and countries that transfer their staff to WHO understandably do not send their best talent.

US funding for UN activities exceeds that of all other countries. In 2020, the US contributed more than 11 billions of dollars, which was just under a fifth of the organization’s collective budget funding. Unless an effective oversight and audit entity is created to oversee the UN, the US should discontinue its funding and instead support an entity we can hold accountable for global public health – a mission as worthy as it is necessary, as covid reminds us.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Biotechnology. Jeff Stier is a senior member of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

©2022 City Journal. Published with permission. Original in English.8014244870001

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