Pandemic Diary Day 25
April 18, 2020
In April 1945, at the San Francisco Conference convened to create the United Nations, representatives of Brazil and China proposed that an international health organization be established.
A Preparatory Committee met in Paris in March and April of 1946 and drew up proposals. These were presented to the International Health Conference in New York City in June and July of 1946. On the basis of these proposals, the Conference drafted and adopted the Constitution of the World Health Organization (the WHO) which was signed on July 22, 1946, by 51 Members of the UN and of 10 other nations.
The WHO’s initial priorities were malaria, tuberculosis, venereal disease and other communicable diseases, plus women and children’s health, nutrition and sanitation.
The institution has more than 7,000 employees made up of doctors, scientists, epidemiologists, administrators, policy experts and economists. The WHO has offices in 150 countries, six regional offices and is headquartered in Geneva.
The WHO’s main objective is ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” It does not provide treatment or conduct disease surveillance it does, however, advise national and international authorities on those subjects.
The WHO has done some excellent things for the world of health. It helped eliminate smallpox and helped to all but eliminate polio. It supports the distribution and administration of measles vaccines around the world. And it played a major role in the 2003 SARS outbreak, the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
However, it has had its mis-steps as well. Alan Sipress in his writing of “The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of the Avian Flue and the Coming Pandemic” said that the WHO “suffered a colossal setback with the failure of global efforts to eradicate malaria,” “It was emblematic of a broader resurgence of infectious disease as microbes mutated, outsmarting new medicines and vaccines, exploiting environmental degradation, poverty, population growth, and humanity’s lapses in vigilance.”
The organization has also been criticized for its slow response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak that resulted in more than 10,000 deaths.
The WHO 2020–2021 budget is $4.8 billion dollars or $2.4 billion/year. To put that in perspective that is only one quarter of the United States Centers for Disease Control budget and is equal to any given large US hospital.
The WHO operates on two different types of funding. One form is from nations that are members of the organization. These donation amounts are calculated on the basis of the country’s wealth and population. The second type is from voluntary contributors.
That means that the US assessed fees come to $237 million. As a nation, we have also pledged $656 million for specific programs that include polio eradication, health and nutrition services, vaccine-preventable diseases, tuberculosis, HIV, and, of course, preventing and controlling outbreaks.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $250 million to WHO specifically for global response to Covid-19, making them the largest donor after the US. The other donations come from a compendium of international corporations and charities.
So why the controversy? The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020. Some criticize WHO because it took another week for them to declare a global pandemic. It also appears that the WHO knew about what was going on in China long before that and are being roundly and justifiably criticized by much of the world for their aiding China in covering up how bad the virus actually was.
The US ostensibly is withholding funding because the WHO refuses to hold China accountable for their country’s slow response and coverup.
Once criticism of the situation is whether or not the WHO is sufficiently independent from China. China has been able to hold sway over the WHO and block Taiwan’s access to the organization, a position that could have very real consequences for the Taiwanese people if the virus takes a strong hold there.
It is important to note as well, that the US is behind in its payment of assessed fees. We currently owe $198.3 million in membership dues.
Why are we in a pissing contest about this though? We are only somewhere in the middle (or god forbid still the beginning) of this, so it hardly seems appropriate to assess how the WHO performed on advising the world about Covid19 at this early stage.
More importantly the WHO is providing medical guidance and treatment to hard-hit areas around the world that could not otherwise fight this pandemic.
“The World Health Organization has done exactly what we’ve designed it to do — no more, no less,” Kelley Lee, the director of global health studies at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, who has been studying WHO since the 1990s, told Rolling Stone. “It has kept us informed. It has mobilized scientists and coordinated data and research. It has collected the best evidence and tried to put forward very clear guidance about what should be done. The big question is whether we’ve given it enough authority and resources to act the way we want it to act.”
Going forward it is important to have a well funded agency managing global public health not only for this crisis, but for ones that are sure to come.
Cutting funding to the WHO at this time in history is simply churlish.
My Horoscope for today: Things have changed and you need to reassess. Clearly you can’t move ahead as planned, but something passed over before could come in handy.
The NYT Crossword Puzzle: Today was hard, it took a while to crack the upper left hand corner
San Francisco weather: 58 degrees and cloudy
NYSE DOW is closed
Italian word of the day: pilota automatico (auto pilot)
Spanish word of the day: la supervivencia (survival)
OED word of the day: ben-feaker (a counterfeiter)
Days under Shelter In Place: 36
Reading: The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft by George Gissing
Reading Canto XXVI of Dante’s Inferno
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: · My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee it cleans the toilet.
If you liked this please clap and let me know. Thank you! And feel free to clap more than once.