The World Health Organization (WHO) is a primary agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. However, in recent times, the WHO has been criticized for either acting too late or too little during a health crisis. There have been instances where WHO was caught grossly unprepared with its course of action. Other times, the scientists and researchers at WHO have made laughable errors while preparing reports. This begs the question: Why WHO makes so many mistakes? Is it deliberate? Or is there some other reason behind WHO’s never ending list of errors?
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Starting with the recent coronavirus outbreak, here are some of the incidents where the World Health Organization committed inaccuracies, mistakes and blunders:
WHO blunders in Coronavirus Risk Assessment
The Geneva-based UN agency had – in its earlier reports – said the likelihood of the coronavirus outbreak turning into a global risk was ‘moderate’. However, later WHO acknowledged that they made an error in their previous reports assessing the risk.
In its report a few days later, WHO said the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level.” They also admitted that the earlier reports had incorrectly mentioned that the global risk was moderate.
When asked about the mistakes, Antoine Flahault, co-director of the Swiss School of Public Health, told AFP that “It’s a mistake. It’s definitely a sizeable one… but I really think it’s a mistake that has now been corrected.”
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WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took to Twitter and apologized for the erroneous report:
Honestly? Human error? That’s your job, providing precise info to the population, and “moderate” instead of “high” is not a typo, it’s downplaying and a disservice to the people. This is shameful at best.
— Katz (@CateVonPillar) January 29, 2020
WHO chief was already under severe criticism for its delay in declaring the coronavirus outbreak as an emergency. Some reporters even hinted that the decision was politicized. The fact that the WHO failed to provide the correct risk assessment has only made matters worse for the WHO chief.
Taiwan demands apology from WHO Chief
Taiwan demanded an apology from the WHO chief following his controversial allegations against the country where he accused the island nation and its people of racial abuse.
In a press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made serious allegations against Taiwan. The WHO chief said that he has been a target of racial insults for the past three months, which he alleged originated from the island of Taiwan.
WHO has been criticized for its handling of the corona pandemic including its treatment of Taiwan. The UN agency – due to the pressure from China – does not recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan. The island nation is still considered a territory of mainland China. The exclusion means Taiwan is kept out of the loop and is unable to share and receive crucial data related to the coronavirus pandemic.
When RTHK journalist – in a video call – questioned WHO advisor Bruce Aylward about Taiwan, the top WHO doctor was lost for words, and abruptly ended the call.
Bruce Aylward @WHO did an interview with HK's @rthk_news When asked about #Taiwan he pretended not to hear the question. The journalist asked again & he even hung up! Woo can't believe how corrupted @WHO is. pic.twitter.com/uyBytfO3LP
— Studio Incendo (@studioincendo) March 28, 2020
WHO admits making False Report on India
A situation report released by the WHO wrongfully placed India at a stage of community transmission. Only when asked to clarify, the WHO was forced to admit its blunder to an Indian News channel saying that India has a cluster of cases and not community transmission.
A community transmission happens when the cases of infection rise exponentially with multiple, untraceable sources. The Indian government firmly denied that the country has reached stage three or community transmission.
The joint secretary of Health Ministry, Lav Aggarwal, said that “If it happens, we will be the first to tell you. We will tell people to be especially alert… There is no community transmission.”
Oxford-based publication stops using WHO’s Coronavirus data, citing errors
Our World in Data – an online publication based at the University of Oxford – has stopped using Word Health Organization data related to coronavirus for its research. The publication announced that they no longer base their models on the WHO data citing errors and other issues.
Instead, the researchers are using data provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The errors and inaccuracies, which Our World in Data documented in a separate report, showed various discrepancies in the situation reports released by WHO between February 5 to March 16.
The lack of reliable data available during the coronavirus outbreak has been a major source of frustration for economists, statisticians, researchers, and public policy makers.
Finland says WHO’s Coronavirus Protocol doesn’t Work
In a startling disclosure, a senior Finnish health official has dismissed a World Health Organization advisory saying WHO doesn’t understand pandemics and that their Coronavirus testing protocol is illogical and doesn’t work.
A senior Finnish health official dismissed a World Health Organization (WHO) advisory to test as many people as possible for coronavirus, arguing that such a measure would be completely illogical when combating a pandemic. Finland’s head of health security, Mika Salminen, took aim at the notion that stopping the spread of Covid-19 requires testing on a mass-scale.
“We don’t understand the WHO’s instructions for testing. We can’t fully remove the disease from the world anymore,” she said, adding: “If someone claims that, they don’t understand pandemics.”
WHO apologizes to UK’s Port Talbot
In 2018, the World Health Organization issued an apology for wrongfully stating that Port Talbot is the most polluted town in the United Kingdom. The global health agency said that they made an “oversight” in the data which suggested that air pollution in Port Talbot is worse than the UK’s largest cities.
The WHO database showed that the south Wales town had a fine pollution level of 18 micrograms of M2.5 pollution particles per cubic metre of air. In comparison, London had 14 micrograms while Manchester had 13 – all above the national guidelines of 10 micrograms.
The then WHO director Dr. Maria Neria later described the figures as “erroneous” and said that the air pollution level for Port Talbot was instead measured at 9.68 micrograms and not 18 as earlier suggested.
She said: “The PM2.5 level for the year 2015 for Port Talbot should be 9.6853 (and is rounded to 10 in the updated excel sheet) and is noted as ‘measured’. The PM2.5 was erroneously featured as a converted (estimated) value of 18. The World Health Organisation has taken immediate steps to rectify this on its WHO web site, and in the database. We regret that this error happened.”
WHO excludes tuberculosis from Global Priority List
In 2017, the WHO compiled the first-ever global priority list for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It included 12 families of bacteria that WHO considers ‘greatest threat to human health’ and for which there is an urgent need for new antibiotics.
Surprisingly, the list did not include the bacteria that causes tuberculosis – even though TB causes more deaths than any other infectious disease. According to WHO estimates, approximately 10 million people contracted this airborne disease in 2015 alone. What’s more, tuberculosis has developed a great resistance to the available antibodies. The decision to not include Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria on the list had confused many experts.
In its defense, WHO said that “it is already a globally established priority for which innovative new treatments are urgently needed.” The response from WHO was face-saving at best. If it is already a globally established priority, then why not include it on the list?
Whistleblower expose WHO operations in Cambodia
Tony Nash a former employee at The Economist and IHS Markit, who worked on a Cambodian project for the WHO has come out with a startling disclosure of how the WHO proliferated a more expensive and harmful approach to HIV treatment in Cambodia instead of the more cheaper Cambodian government method.
When I was with a previous employer, the WHO asked us to do a report comparing the efficacy of mother-to-child transmitted HIV treatment continua in Cambodia. We were asked to compare the WHO continuum to the Cambodian government continuum.
After hundreds of interviews, we found that the Cambodian government continuum was both more effective and cheaper than the WHO method. The full report was turned over to the WHO. The results were dismissed and the report was buried.
In effect, the WHO showed it would rather proliferate a more expensive approach with worse health outcomes than the Cambodian government’s home-grown treatment. I’ve ignored this for a decade, but given the news out today, I have to disclose it. I fully support the withdrawal of funding from the WHO.
An exclusive report by GreatGameIndia revealed how in 2009 WHO prematurely declared ‘swine flu’ a pandemic which resulted in a surge of vaccine orders. The rich and affluent nations were quick to purchase the vaccines for their people. Ironically, most deaths occurred not in Europe but in Africa and Southeast Asia.
In his controversial book renowned author Stuart Blume discloses that many of the most influential advisers, at both World Health Organisation (WHO) and national levels, are paid consultants to the vaccine industry raising a very serious question – that the WHO might be working for the vaccine industry’s interests and not the people – the reason why 10 years ago WHO faked a pandemic.
The consistent pattern of blunders being committed by WHO raises serious questions on its efficiency in dealing with the lives of people. The amount of errors on a regular basis suggest WHO’s gambling-approach to world health-crisis. Past experiences shedding light on WHO being used as tool of the vaccine lobby have led many experts to call for dismantling of the WHO.
Can the World Health Organization (WHO) still be reformed or must it be reborn? Can it address concretely and effectively the challenges it is facing? Should WHO be dismantled? These are important questions, not only for the next director-general but perhaps even more for the member states who are the real “owners” of WHO.
For latest updates on the outbreak check out our Coronavirus Coverage.
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