This week, the Associated Press revealed how WHO lied to the world about China’s initial coverup of the coronavirus outbreak. Those lies, which delayed other countries’ responses to the virus, caused hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.
The AP gained access to recordings of internal WHO meetings in January. Those recordings capture WHO officials discussing keeping China’s secretive conduct under wraps, even as WHO kept praising China publicly. That sugarcoating left the world unaware and unprepared for the pandemic about to hit.
Even without this damning new information, Trump would have been right to pull American dollars and prestige out of WHO. The organization has an abysmal record dealing with previous global diseases, from SARS, to H1N1 flu and Ebola. In the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Harvard Global Health Institute’s director, Ashish Jha, wrote of the growing skepticism toward WHO because it “often fails to perform when the world needs it most.”
Look at how WHO spends its money. Only 4 percent goes for medical supplies, but double that goes for air travel and 10 times on salaries and perks. The agency is a bloated, cushy, underperforming bureaucracy.
It spends hundreds of millions a year on meetings, business-class travel and top hotels and turns a blind eye when senior staff go “with girlfriends on fabricated missions,” according to an AP investigation. Why should US taxpayers pay for global junkets?
Don’t confuse WHO with the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or other organizations delivering care to the sick. On Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, suggested the US will shift its support to such frontline care.
In the AP’s latest revelations, WHO’s top staff are recorded discussing behind closed doors how China is concealing the virus, while publicly the agency praised China for transparency.
China had mapped the genetic makeup of the virus by Jan. 2 but withheld the information until Jan. 11. Worse, it concealed until Jan. 20 that the virus is contagious, even though Wuhan hospitals were flooded with patients. By the time China locked down the city of Wuhan, some 5 million residents had fled, carrying the disease across the world.
“It’s obvious that we could have saved more lives and avoided many, many deaths if China and the WHO had acted faster,” explains University of Washington’s Ali Mokdad.
Yet here is WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Jan. 30 whitewashing China’s deception: “The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive and beyond words.” He called it a “new standard of outbreak response.”
The Communist standard — lie and let hundreds of thousands die. Just like China tried to hide SARS in 2003.
When Trump suspended WHO’s funding in April, Tedros pompously lectured: “Don’t use this virus as an opportunity to fight against each other or score political points.” Tedros needs to look in the mirror: He’s the one playing politics, barring Taiwan from participating in two emergency coronavirus meetings.
Taiwan had some of the earliest cases and was the first to tip off WHO that the coronavirus was likely contagious. But any concessions to Taiwan infuriate Beijing, and that’s where Tedros’ loyalty lies.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims the president doesn’t have the constitutional authority to hold back WHO funding or leave the organization without Congress’ approval. Let the lawyers haggle over that. Trump’s got the big picture. The organization is not worthy of US support. It puts politics ahead of global health and blows our tax money on travel boondoggles and high living for its staff.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York, the chairwoman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and author of the forthcoming book “The Next Pandemic.”