This is a long post, part 1 of 4 in a series, because I wanted to be thorough. Big claims need big evidence. You might want to pack your lunch.
“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority,” said Dr Tedros. “We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus. WHO is working closely with the government on measures to understand the virus and limit transmission. WHO will keep working side-by-side with China and all other countries to protect health and keep people safe.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Source
When the WHO first made this announcement, with its bold and slightly baffling praise for China’s, erm, transparency, I was willing to give it a pass.
China had finally owned up to the crisis (once they couldn’t hide it any more), had notified the WHO, had released the DNA sequence of the virus, and was sharing infection data. Sort of. The WHO could be excused for worrying that China might clam up again, as it had done during the SARS crisis, so it was probably trying to offer some positive reinforcement for China’s baby steps towards being a responsible global citizen. And anyway, as a UN agency, they have to be diplomatic.
But then things got weird. Two days later, the same Director-General was saying this:
As I have said repeatedly since my return from Beijing, the Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak, despite the severe social and economic impact those measures are having on the Chinese people.
We would have seen many more cases outside China by now – and probably deaths – if it were not for the government’s efforts, and the progress they have made to protect their own people and the people of the world.
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. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries.
In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. It’s not an exaggeration. […]
As you know, I was in China just a few days ago, where I met with President Xi Jinping. I left in absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment to transparency, and to protecting the world’s people.
Some of this is fair. Once China got on to it, no one could accuse them of taking half-measures. They were shutting down whole cities, although the WHO normally discourages travel bans. Other parts of Tedros’ speech are . . . overly generous. ‘The speed at which they detected the outbreak’? They detected it alright, they just chose not to tell anyone, or to do anything about it – and no, it was not just the scapegoated local authorities. See also the world’s true newspaper of record. Even when they did notify the WHO, they denied that there were human to human transmissions while arresting doctors for saying just this. And what’s that about setting a new standard? The lockdown certainly demonstrates will, but it was far too late. If, say, Belgium suffered an outbreak and acted like this, I can’t imagine that the WHO’s praise would be so gushing.
And then some of his colleagues started up:
The people of China feel protected … the ultimate social contract. The government of China is honouring that contract with its people. We all need to take a step back and admire what’s happened.
If I had COVID-19, I want to be treated in China.
From the joint mission report:
In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.
This is beyond diplomacy, and beyond arse-kissing. This is the WHO’s tongue up to China’s small intestine.
Before we get back to Corona-chan, be aware that the WHO has been at it for some years now. This is the former director-general speaking in 2016:
In the eyes of the world, China is increasingly seen as a model for development at many levels.
The world’s second largest economy grew rapidly yet reliably. China opened its markets to liberalized trade only when its own economy was mature enough to compete internationally. Countries with fragile economies thinking about entering trade agreements should learn from this experience. […]
[The eradication of smallpox] established an attitude at WHO that persists today: China can do anything whatsoever it decides to do. […]
China is extremely fortunate to have a President who has made health the centre of all government policies
It goes on and on. There are some gentle suggestions, but one cannot imagine the WHO treating, say, Brazil like this.
Does China really value such accolades? Hooooo yeah, especially when coming from foreigners. There are whole YouTube accounts where white monkeys get massive views by extolling all things Chinese. By contrast, the Chinese have a glass heart when it comes to even mild criticism from a lǎowài. Look how they reacted to a single negative comment from an NBA manager.
Foreign praise makes the CCP look grand in the eyes of its subjects and provides massive propaganda material for them. These WHO comments are being run on state TV with great prominence.
While on the topic of China’s influence over the WHO, we should also note that China has successfully kept Taiwan from having even observer status at the WHO for some time now. The WHO recently misreported infection numbers for Taiwan, apparently because they were getting those figures from Beijing. The same thing happened with the SARS outbreak, when the WHO would not share data with Taiwan.
Some have suggested that the WHO’s decision to name the virus (COVID-19) in such a way to avoid stigmatizing any region or group was also a case of bending over backwards for the Chinese, given that many other diseases such as MERS and Ebola virus refer to locations. However, the decision about naming conventions was made back in 2015, amid much disagreement, so it appears unrelated.
At the same time the WHO was praising extreme travel restrictions within China, they were criticizing countries that took equivalent measures by closing their borders to travelers who have been in the infected area:
Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies.
We don’t need to send physical messenger-boys to share information these days, you silly billy. We have telegrams! And also, you don’t need a lot of actual people moving around to keep container ships moving. In any case, the main problem with medical supply chains at the moment is that a lot of Chinese factories are shut down, which is one of the things the WHO was praising them for.
The anti-travel ban message from the WHO allowed the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman to chide:
Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction. [It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.
And CCP mouthpiece the Global Times really got stuck into uppity little Australia:
Senseless blocking normal relations has the ominous prospect of derailing the sanguine development which hinges on trust and cooperation. It not only affects the students’ education and life in Australia, but also sends them a message that would dent their faith in Australia as a compassionate country and supporting society.
But then, the Global Times has not been a big fan of Australia for some time.
Keep in mind that when swine flu broke out in Mexico, China not only suspended flights – it also withdrew its embassy staff. And quarantined asymptomatic Mexicans in China. So racist. The WHO had little to say about that.
China and the WHO are certainly singing from the same songbook. China’s songbook. It would look bad if other countries were closing their borders to China, and it would look good for the CCP if everyone else was suffering from the same disease.
Not too cynical for many governments around the world, including my own. This fascinating article describes how Australia blatantly ignored WHO advice and closed its borders to China anyway. Striking is the utter lack of trust Australian medical authorities put in the WHO. And for those wondering if it may be a populist move, be aware that Australia is about to take a massive economic hit.
Also ignoring WHO recommendations and restricting travel from China are the governments of the United States, North and South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Malaysia, and several others. In addition, many airlines have cancelled flights.
The WHO has not yet declared a pandemic (at the time of writing), but everyone has acted as though there is a pandemic. In the article above, it is clear Australian medical authorities considered it a pandemic more than a month ago.
Why is no one listening to the WHO?
It’s because everyone knows they are corrupt and inept.
The agency spends more on travel than it does on AIDS. In another discussion, it was suggested that this is fair enough because the WHO is a coordinating body, and the main thing it does is send experts around the world to research, support and advise. However, following the scandal, the WHO itself pledged to reduce travel spending – and by 2019 had done so by 4%. In the same article we learn that some staffers were taking business class flights against the WHO’s own rules by misrepresenting their reasons for travel. The WHO responded that, indeed, 55% of its travel spending went to experts and country representatives – which leaves us wondering about the other 45% . . .
In a series of anonymous emails sent to WHO directors last year, a whistleblower alleged there were numerous instances of “senior staff travelling with girlfriends on fabricated missions,” including during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. One message claimed a senior staffer flew to Australia from Geneva “on a trumped-up trip at WHO expense” that cost the organization 11,000 Swiss francs ($10,889).
If true, that would account for some of it.
According to WHO’s Office of Internal Oversight, 13% of the fraud cases it investigated last year involved alleged problems with travel claims.
In other words, travel rorts are not the half of it.
As of May last year, 59 of the 90 recommendations made by its internal auditors were yet to be completed, including 38 “high-significance” reforms, some of which had suffered from “low implementation effort”.
There has also been a surge in internal corruption allegations across the whole of the organisation, with the detection of multiple schemes aimed at defrauding large sums of money from the international body.
An external committee has warned the WHO it is facing “decreasing internal control compliance”.
So, things are getting worse. The same article suggests that the reluctance to declare Corona a pandemic might also be political, but we’ll come back to manipulation later.
In addition, here is a British Medical Journal article about a WHO coverup of a Big Pharma donation from 2010. And then there is the case of Professor Albert Osterhaus, who was accused of exaggerating the swine flu risk, profiting from sales of vaccines, and assorted other shenanigans, all closely entwined with the WHO.
In the previous discussion linked, there were two responses to this. The first response is that the underfunding of key WHO organs is a result of donors withdrawing support. Well, kind of – but some of the $2 billion of their budget remaining is clearly going down the drain. That amount, by the way, is equivalent to the annual government budget of Kyrgyzstan. Further, a probable reason for countries withdrawing funds is the corruption and inefficiency itself. The WHO has no right to cry poor when, after internal reviews have admitted severe problems, the organization has not been able to reform.
The second response is that many other organizations are also corrupt. Yes they are, but the point is, the WHO has clearly reached a point of corruption that national health authorities are simply not taking it seriously. It is no longer fit for purpose. The US Department of Defense might also be tainted, but the US military is still able to defend America against an armed invasion.
When it comes to the WHO’s core mission of dealing with health crises, its performance is abysmal.
“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” says a draft internal document obtained by the Associated Press. Experts should have realised that the conventional way of containing an Ebola outbreak would not work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.
WHO’s appointment system in Africa is also criticised in the document. Heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr Margaret Chan, it said. As Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the Guardian last week: “What should be [the] WHO’s strongest regional office because of the enormity of the health challenges, is actually the weakest technically, and full of political appointees.” […]
WHO said it was “particularly alarming” that the head of its Guinea office refused to help get visas for an expert Ebola team to come in and $500,000 in aid was blocked by administrative hurdles.
That was from the internal review. Here’s a sample of what outside experts were saying:
“The most egregious failure was by WHO in the delay in sounding the alarm,” said Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring… and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous,” Jha said. […]
They include the creation of a U.N. Security Council health committee to expedite political attention to health issues, the publishing of a list of countries that are quick to share information and those that delay reporting, and the establishment of a global fund to finance and accelerate the development of outbreak-relevant drugs and treatment.
Note that all the measures in the last paragraph would take power away from the WHO and give it to others.
The primary reason that the WHO failed during the Ebola outbreak was that affected nations chose to cover it up, like Guinea as mentioned above, and the WHO let them. Ringing any bells? The WHO’s new Health Emergency body was supposed to overcome this, giving them the mandate and organizational skills to respond better to outbreaks. It failed, due to a dynamic combination of corruption, incompetence, and donor nations that are beginning to shrug their shoulders and walk away.
Coverups in Africa, China and elsewhere demonstrate that WHO is too easily manipulated for political reasons. Aside from failing to openly criticize nations whose irresponsible actions endanger the entire world, the WHO tends to get captured by powerful players.
In its early days, the WHO was accused of being dominated by colonially-minded wealthy countries, especially the United States. During the 60s and 70s, newly independent countries increased the voting power, and influence, of the Third World. Wealthy countries were still required for funding, however. Some have suggested this gives them too much say in determining health priorities.
When considering the politics of the organization, also keep in mind the role of drug companies in causing conflicts of interest, and the temptation for the WHO to exaggerate health risks in order to increase its own power.
My first thought upon seeing the WHO cozy up to China, and the reaction of some other commenters, was that China must be catching up with developed countries and using its growing contributions to throw its weight around. However, I checked the WHO’s 2018 financial report of donations. China contributed about $6 million. The racist savages in Australia stumped up $35 million. The United States remained the largest donor at around $281 million, and in second place was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at $229 million. Honorable mentions to the UK at $205 million and Germany at $155 million. The grand total was a bit over $2 billion.
For the record, in 2010, just before the big donation cutbacks started, the US gave about the same amount as in 2018. This is a fall in real terms due to inflation, but not nearly the gutting of the organization which some are crying about (nor what it perhaps deserved). Oh, and that was back under Obama. More recently, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding in half.
What do we get for this $2 billion the WHO presently receives? Well, we saw that in China and West Africa – not much.
WHO board members themselves demand reform, saying it needs to streamline its complex structure in order to become more efficient. There are seven regional offices that are answerable to their own member states, not to the director-general. In that 2016 article, experts express fear that the organization’s dysfunction might result in the WHO losing its leadership role, and it appears that this has now occurred. National health authorities are listening politely but in their actions, they are going their own way.
A sharp-minded reader might be wondering: how corrupt could this organization really be, if their own board members are leading the clamour for reform? Surely that must mean there are many good people within the WHO.
This is a great question and I’m glad you asked, because my proposed answer helps to shine a brighter light on the whole mess.
The WHO’s problems, together with the UN’s problems and the problems of other international agencies, often stem from this issue: all countries must cooperate. High-trust, well-managed countries no doubt mostly send highly competent and trustworthy delegates to the WHO. As for the less well-managed countries, the quality will vary. Some are properly trained and are decent people. Some will be there because of connections or bribes, are on the take, lack the necessary skills, and are as dumb as dogshit.
I reckon I could guess with high accuracy which country’s members are doing most of the whistle-blowing, and which are doing most of the pinching. The strongly left-wing news sources cited made no mention of their respective nationalities, which increases my certainty. You know the rule: details that match the narrative are included, those that contradict it are withheld.
But do keep in mind Prof. Osterhaus, as mentioned earlier. Some developed-country experts in the organization may be as dodgy as a $3.17 note. Not necessarily the good professor, mind you. Not sure why I even mentioned him.
Now we come to the key question. At the moment, China is obviously calling the shots in the WHO, despite its minuscule contribution. Why? Experts are baffled.
I could not get a firm answer to this. Here are a few points of interest:
China has offered to build the new headquarters for the African Centre for Disease Control, to the tune of $80 million. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The director-general of the WHO is a former minister in the Ethiopian government.
However, he is Tigray, and his mob recently got kicked out by the new guy, Abiy. Tedros’ TPLF party would be far more interested in something built up their way, in the north of the country. Or in funding their return to power . . . watch your back, Abiy! But then, all those non-Tigray WHO officials were also toadying up to China. I don’t think this conspiracy theory has legs.
Another theory is that the WHO is laying the groundwork in China as it may be an important future donor, especially as Western governments are edging away (paywall alert, I could only see an extract).
In the end, I don’t know. The sucking up to China has gone way beyond what ought to be required to secure their cooperation. I have a strong suspicion about what might be happening, given the obviously corrupt nature of many individuals within the WHO, the inability of the WHO or anyone else to hold them accountable, and the history of Chinese influence, especially in Africa. But it is only a suspicion, so I will not risk defaming anyone here.
The point is, the WHO is so corrupt that it cannot be trusted. Of course you can take their normal health advice seriously, like washing your hands, and governments should heed their reasonable calls such as to increase production of protective equipment. However, if their advice conflicts with that of your own country’s health authorities, you’re going to have to weigh them up. I have chosen to trust Australia’s authorities. Some would be rational to trust neither.
And when they say stuff like this:
Evidence from China is that only 1% of reported #COVID19 cases do not have symptoms & most of those cases develop symptoms within 2 days.
. . . then you really need to put your big-boy pants on and think it through for yourself, like many national governments are doing. “Evidence from China”? Come on. Let’s see if that evidence gets backed up by data from South Korea and Italy first. If true, that would be wonderful news because it would make the disease much, much easier to control – but the key words in this sentence are the first two.
Obviously we should take advice from experts. But when our experts, local or international, have been captured by vested interests and have botched their tasks, we must not be afraid to question their words and to do our own research.
The WHO previously spearheaded successful health campaigns such as the drive to eradicate smallpox. It has always been manipulated by big players. Its corruption has grown over the years, and simply cannot be rooted out.
Pipe dream time: the world needs a more efficient, smaller, cheaper organization to totally replace the WHO. This body should focus purely on coordinating international efforts to combat highly infectious diseases, not bothering us about eating meat, using mobile phones, and telling us trannies are not mad. Oh, and policing such hateful language as “transmitting COVID-19” “infecting others” or “spreading the virus”. And if you dare to call it “Wuhan Virus”, “Chinese Virus” or “Asian Virus”, we’ll lock you in a room with a dozen Ebola sufferers we keep on hand just for people like you. “Kung Flu” is right out.
Finally, I have said little about the present director-general of the WHO, Dr. Tedros, even though his home town is my old stomping ground, Asmara. Fear not! He gets an article all of his own.
And in case I have erred, and China’s performance, as confirmed by the WHO, was actually as brilliant as reported . . . I offer the last word to this Chinese Communist Party minister who bravely appeared on the Australian national broadcaster:
Part 2 in this series: Who the hell is Tedros?