Two weeks after President Trump fired a feature intemperate letter the Director-General of the World Health Organization, accusing him of incompetence in dealing with Crisis COVID-19, the agency's reputation has been damaged far less than the image of the United States. That is, judging by the reaction of global public health experts.
In the days that followed, the four-page letter with the sound of the prosecutor's office to director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus created shock waves. The letter ended with the accusation that WHO's "repeated mistakes" in dealing with the response to the COVID-19 outbreak "were extremely expensive for the world". Tedros gave 30 days to reform the body.
So Trump, increasingly cornered politically, did not even reach the break. On Friday, May 29, he did the unimaginable: remove the United States from the world's most important health organization.
Why? It was a Friday afternoon when the swamp creatures in Washington think no one is paying attention. Minneapolis was on fire after the murder of a black man by the white police, and all Trump could do was to light the flames. Twitter had to moderate its rant – "when the looting begins, the shooting begins" – that so many people interpreted as racist.
More than 102,000 Americans are killed in a COVID-19 pandemic that history will record as a result of a lack of planning, denial and, ultimately, America's "opening" momentum. The United States now has the highest unemployment rate in its history and new cases of COVID-19 are starting to increase.
Some of Trump's colleagues and his political advisers eyeing the upcoming presidential election are telling the media that they can see that he will be in trouble, as opinion polls began.
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Trump has long humiliated and threatened WHO with the permanent loss of US debt and donations. The US total in quotas and voluntary contributions would normally contribute about 22% to the entire WHO program budget (currently set at around $ 4 billion a year), but Trump withheld U.S. funds in 2019 and 2020.
Until now, the U.S. government and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been leaders in global public health, and the direct threats to WHO, crowned by the organization's hasty withdrawal, were impressive and worrying.
David Nabarro, the British health and development specialist Tedros appointed as special envoy for COVID-19 in February, said last week, before Trump's impulsive action on Friday:
"Suddenly, they tell us: sorry, we have to have a 20% cash cut," said Nabarro in a virtual statement. conversation event to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "We are screwing up. We haven't done anything good."
Nabarro had been the most formidable opponent to Tedros in 2017, when the 194 governments represented at the World Health Organization elected General director of Tedros for a period of five years.
"You want to know," said Nabarro. "What could lead a country that has been such an important leader in global health on so many issues to just say that we are out?"
"I want to know what we could have done better," said Nabarro, "but not exactly in the midst of this extraordinary, dangerous and damaging crisis."
Fact-checkers tore Trump's letter, including in The Lancet, an international professional medical journal. So far, a widely accepted analysis of the missive and the action that followed is that it intended to punish China and attack WHO under Tedros. He is a former Ethiopian health minister from a continent that the American president dismissed in eschatological terms.
Tedros was caught in the crossfire when Trump moved targets, looking for scapegoats for a growing catastrophe in American health. Tedros, Trump said, was working closely with the Chinese at the expense of transparency about the early progression of the disease, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Forgotten was the praise that Trump received from Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, for managing COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic – or Trump's own neglect in preparing the U.S. for this. With his popularity waning, Trump may think he may face anti-Chinese attacks on his November re-election victory, and Republican politicians are lining up, like Dana Milbank reported recently in The Washington Post.
A lot has happened since Trump criticized Tedros, and the story is not ending well for Washington. On May 19, the day after the letter was sent, the World Health Assembly, the governing body of member countries that decides the rules for WHO staff, adopted as part of its final agreement a long list of actions that member governments could adopt. handle the COVID-19 case.
The agreement also said “to start as soon as possible and in consultation with Member States. . . a gradual process of impartial, independent and comprehensive assessment "of the organization's treatment of the crisis. (Trump said he would have an independent American" review ".)
The U.S. delegation to the assembly, led by Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, did not object to the Assembly's conclusions, nor did it exclude two items that Trump's abortion advocates considered Trojans.
On May 26, WHO stopped trials with hydroxychloroquine, a drug targeted and claimed by Trump against the virus that some studies found to be potentially dangerous.
Michael Ryan, head of the organization's emergency responses, said at a briefing at Geneva headquarters that there has so far been no indication of safety problems with hydroxychloroquine in WHO trials. He added, however, "We are just acting very cautiously, based on the recent results of all the studies to ensure that we can continue safely."
The next day, May 27, Thomas Zeltner, former Swiss health secretary and director general of the Swiss National Health Authority, announced the formation of an independent WHO Foundation, which will raise funds for the agency from the public.
The private sector and philanthropic foundations have been the main supporters of the United Nations' work in many areas, so much so that critics fear that these foreigners are holding certain positions to set agendas. Business Insider reported in 2018, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been a major sponsor of global health projects, spent $ 4.78 billion on charity in 2017 – the year that Tedros became head of WHO – and that most of the money was earmarked for projects carried out by Gates.
Worldwide, this is not just a story about Trump and Tedros.
In Singapore, Noeleen Heyzer, a former United Nations undersecretary general and the first woman to head the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as executive secretary, said in a memo to PassBlue that broader issues are at stake. game. The UN Security Council is failing in its functions, she said.
"Southeast Asian leaders," she wrote, "expected stronger US leadership in global health security at this historic moment, as they had seen in previous epidemics discussed by the Security Council such as Ebola and HIV / AIDS."
Instead, the Trump administration blocked a draft Security Council resolution calling for "an end to hostilities around the world, so that there could be a total focus on combating COVID-19, a pandemic of the last century," wrote Heyzer. "It was not possible to reach an agreement because of President Trump… Objecting to the reference 'the urgent need to support… All relevant entities of the United Nations system, including specialized health agencies' in the fight against the pandemic ".
The United States also wanted China to be cited as the source of the virus.
"Failure to reach an agreement undermines the urgent need for a coordinated global response at a time when our world is facing an unprecedented crisis and is entering an extremely dangerous period," added Heyzer. “This is the time for responsible multilateral leadership. The Security Council must be able to do its job and not be harmed by the rivalry and politics of the great power. "
In the U.S., several non-governmental organizations have contested claims and data used by Trump in his letter to Tedros. A concise form, entitled "Coronavirus disinformation to finance the World Health Organization", has just been published. Published jointly by Ipas and the International Women's Health Coalition. It covers the mandate and scope of WHO and its role in emergencies, as well as Trump's history of complaints about his work.
In London, the Science Media Center, which recently collects and disseminates quotes from relevant experts, analyzes and fact sheets on current affairs Published references to the COVID-19 crisis and Trump's letter to Tedros at the WHO.
Some recent posts on the website of specialists in public health and infectious diseases, usually from researchers at leading British universities, illustrate that there is little credibility in the key points of Trump's letter to Tedros. Experts also explain the rules imposed on WHO officials by governments, including limits on access to national research facilities – and sometimes on visits to countries without invitations.
Almost universally, contributors to the site, while recognizing the criticisms that can be made about WHO, view Trump's actions as political rather than in the interest of public health.