“At present, pathogens have more power than the WHO. ” The callback from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, its director general, on the last day of the World Health Assembly, Monday, May 31, had all the appearances of the obvious. But it is also a sincere admission of weakness; and even more a compelling message. The UN agency must now change its stance if it intends to better end the coronavirus health crisis, and thwart the next ones. Testimony to the modesty of its resources, this observation by Lothar Wieler, head of the German Robert-Koch Institute, and also president of one of the agency’s many advisory bodies: “WHO still employs less than 200 full-time equivalents at its headquarters, which is clearly insufficient. States should ensure adequate funding to enable it to accelerate its actions. “
However, nothing is less certain in the immediate future. Cornerstone of the radical overhaul of the World Health Organization, an international treaty on pandemics, proposed by 26 countries, including France and Germany, has been postponed to November. The contours of the reform of the organization to give it more power are still unclear, because of the sovereign reluctance of countries like China and Russia, resistant to any interference in their internal affairs. The idea of the possibility for the WHO to dispatch teams of investigators as quickly as possible, in the event of an epidemic alert in a country, was hardly mentioned. However, it is one of those early warning systems to be improved: they did not work in China in December 2019.
The main problem with the WHO is that it is part of the United Nations galaxy, governed by the same codes and the same insurmountable contradictions. Clearly, it must convince all of its members to move forward. The IPPR co-chair (Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response) and former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, summed it up very well. “It has happened that previous reports or analyzes like ours were left in a drawer, collecting dust. This resulted in the situation we find ourselves in today. “
Vaccine inequity scandal
While in Europe and the United States, the Covid-19 ebbs and lets hope for an almost radiant summer, the WHO recalled during its annual meeting that the account was not there. “Let us be very clear, the pandemic is not over, and it will not be until transmission is under control in absolutely all countries”, said Tedros Ghebreyesus, before blaming Western countries for “Scandalous inequality” vaccine distribution, which risks perpetuating the pandemic. Helen Clark, co-chair of the Institute for Public Policy Research, urged countries to redistribute doses equitably and remove barriers to scaling up production of Covid-19 vaccines, “By sharing intellectual property, carrying out the necessary technology transfers and generalizing the system of voluntary licenses”.
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