Spare WHO the bluster, it will affect morale
As the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that it will launch an independent investigation of its initial response to the virus outbreak early this year. The international agency has been criticised for downplaying the extent of the outbreak when it was first reported in China, saying it was “limited”. However, the agency then moved to declare the COVID-19 spread a global emergency by the end of January. By then, the virus had spread to Iran, Italy and many other places. The investigation was long demanded by the United State and other countries, mainly in Europe and Africa. The US all along accused WHO of bowing to Chinese pressure to downplay the initial reports of the Wuhan mass infection. WHO officials have rejected the allegations, which later led President Donald Trump to cut the US funding for the agency.
The investigation, we are being told, will be swift. We will hopefully know what really transpired during those critical few weeks in January. The report will also look into the critical warning system of the WHO. Some member states have raised questions whether WHO’s warning system for alerting the world to outbreaks is adequate. The probe will likely offer the world valuable lessons on how to deal with future crises. However, ‘the comprehensive evaluation’ would stop short of getting into the details of the controversial issue of where the novel coronavirus originated; something the Trump administration has been pushing for. Washington claims the virus came from a lab in China, although several scientific agencies insist that evidence points to the fact that the virus most likely jumped from an animal to human. The WHO announcement is good news. Nevertheless, it is futile to dwell on this issue in determining the extent of support to the agency, which is on the front line of this unprecedented battle against COVID-19. The world today needs the agency more than ever. Developed countries may not need WHO to fight their own battle against the pandemic. But there are plenty of developing countries which don’t have the same resources, access to the latest information or the medical ability to combat the coronavirus. These countries are in dire need of the agency’s services. The probe is no reason to stop supporting the WHO. The agency need urgent support to continue its vital role in helping underdeveloped societies.