Who’s afraid of the WHO? | The Indian Express

2020-04-16 | 3 minutes

Context: Most of the countries are facing negative impact of coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic on their economy and people. There are discussions over role of Director General of WHO in fight against coronavirus and COVID-19.


  • On 30 January 2020, the outbreak of novel coronavirus was declared a public health emergency of international concern by WHO.
  • On 13 March 2020, the WHO launched Solidarity Response Fund to collect funds from people, private organisations and foundations for its fight against COVID-19.
  • On 22 March 2020, the central government formed high-level expert committee of 21 members headed by V K Paul. It was formed to get guidance for the prevention and control of COVID-19.
  • In March 2020, Central government has said that it will order 10,000 ventilators from China.
  • In March 2020, US has stopped giving funds to WHO by saying that WHO gave publicity to disinformation from China about coronavirus.

Discussion over controversies about role of current Director-General of WHO:

  • China’s role in appointment of current DG of WHO: Current Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was elected in 2017. His appointment was mainly supported by China. He became prominent only after China’s support for his appointment as DG of WHO. India and other countries in the world also supported his appointment. Before being elected as DG of WHO, he has served as minister in Ethiopia.


  • Silence over China: WHO and its DG have been accused of trying to stop the public all over the world from knowing the truth about COVID-19 pandemic, which started from Wuhan in China. China is already economic and military power. Now, it is trying to become powerful in public health also as after COVID-19, public health systems of many countries are dependent on China for fighting against coronavirus.


  • Mishandling of pandemic: Tedros warned that countries having weak public health system will be more vulnerable to COVID-19. But, COVID-19 has affected many western countries having strong health systems more than that with weak health system such as India. US has stopped funding to WHO by saying that WHO’s publicity to disinformation from China about coronavirus possibly increased COVID-19 spread rather than preventing it. While stopping funding, US also said that WHO was not successful in doing its duty of preventing disinformation and virus outbreak. So, it is necessary to hold the WHO accountable.

Suggestions for helping India in winning fight against COVID-19:

  • Mass testing: On 24 March 2020, number of coronavirus patients in India was nearly 600. Now, they have increased to 11,600. The number of coronavirus patients has grown by twenty times within 20 days. So, India should go for swift and mass testing.


  • Reducing dependence on China: Due to corruption in health sector and lack of vision, India is dependent on China for raw materials required for making medicines. It imports nearly 80% of raw material requirements from China. So, India needs to take swift action and lower the dependence of its pharmaceutical industry on China.


Current DG of WHO, Tedros is heading a UN specialized agency that works for public health globally. WHO and its DG’s silence over China may serve interest of China, which supported his appointment in 2017. But, this will negatively affect interest of people all over the world. India needs to be careful. It should not accept WHO uncritically. It should focus on mass testing and reducing dependence on China. This will help India win fight against COVID-19.  

Mains question:

Discuss controversies over role of current Director-General of WHO in the fight against coronavirus and COVID-19. Suggest some measures that can help India win its fight against COVID-19. (200 words)


  • WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund was launched on 13 March 2020. WHO has created any fund for the first time in history. UN Foundation and Swiss Philanthropy Foundation are managing the fund. 
  • World Health Assembly elects Director-General of WHO for five years. It is a governing body of WHO.
  • US is the country, which donates maximum money to WHO. In 2019, approximately 15% or over $400 million of budget of WHO came from US