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The World Health Organization is Out of Control 

Rather leading during crisis, it's parroting Chinese government talking points and presenting unusable data.

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus via video link as he delivers a news briefing on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) from the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 30, 2020. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

As the United Nations’ dedicated public health agency, one might assume that the World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything in its power to fight the deadly coronavirus. Unfortunately, the lavishly taxpayer-funded global bureaucracy has fallen down on the job, seeming more concerned with vindicating China than providing leadership to the rest of the world.

With annual “contributions” to the WHO totaling roughly half a billion dollars, U.S. taxpayers deserve better. They should demand greater transparency and oversight before more money is wasted propping up a failed organization. 

From day one, the WHO sat idly by as the Chinese government covered up COVID-19 and facilitated the spread of the disease across the globe. Despite Beijing’s assertions to the contrary, COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, in November 2019. It spread unabated from there. 

The late Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang started to notice a suspicious pattern of cases the following month. Yet President Xi Jinping’s brutal regime promptly hauled the doctor and his colleagues before the secret police and forced them to stop warning other doctors about the impending pandemic. To quote New York Times contributor Nicholas D. Kristof, the Chinese government felt an obligation to act and “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.” 

When this obfuscation became a matter of public record, the WHO had an obligation to hold China accountable for its grave misdeeds. Instead, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed President Xi’s “political commitment” and “political leadership” in containing the coronavirus. When Dr. Tedros claimed that “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response,” he wasn’t kidding. It’s hardly typical for a country to thoroughly cover up such a deadly disease for such a long time and then refuse to allow in a WHO advance team (for two weeks) once the disease becomes apparent. WHO authorities then suggested that China’s approach be replicated around the world, despite reported cases of the authorities arresting people for stepping outside of their apartments and playing Mahjong at home without masks. 

For all of this kowtowing to China, the WHO hasn’t even managed to extract dependable disease spread information from local authorities. On March 24, the online publication “Our World in Data” (based at the University of Oxford) reported that WHO data is simply too unreliable to use for statistical reports on the coronavirus. The researchers noted, “In published WHO Situation Reports were several inconsistencies in the number of total confirmed cases, and new confirmed cases that we noticed between the WHO Situation Reports and the WHO Dashboard, which also presents these statistics.” Even worse, “these errors are not communicated by the WHO itself” and require the attention of astute public health researchers to tease out. 

Despite inconsistent and unreliable data, the WHO remains as determined as ever to provide “information” to the public via mobile apps. On March 30, it released its “MyHealth” app for iOS and Android where users can find the “latest numbers” and “myth-busters” pertaining to the pandemic. But the numbers presented simply parrot the inaccurate WHO data that “Our World in Data” has ceased relying on. There’s legitimate concern that the Xi-centric WHO will uncritically report Chinese infection numbers supplied by local authorities, who, according to the U.S.-based Chinese blogger and biochemist Fang Zhouzi, “are lying about the statistics for the sake of the economy.” 

It isn’t terribly surprising that China has been playing public health games and has even blamed the U.S. Army for the coronavirus. It’s even more disappointing to see the WHO parrot Chinese government talking points and present blatantly inaccurate information to scientists and patients around the world. And American taxpayers are funding all this. 

It is time for the Trump administration and Congress to hold the WHO accountable for coddling dictators and failing to open up about their flawed statistics. There’s simply too much at stake for deflection and misinformation.  

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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