The PLOS Medicine Editors discuss the need for global cooperation and solidarity to combat Covid-19, in light of the recent announcement from the White House to halt funding to the World Health Organisation.
On April 14th, the President of the United States decided to halt funding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and conduct an investigation to assess their management of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The WHO is made up of 193 member states and cannot be easily dismissed as another fledgling bureaucratic organisation even though it is not faultless. But as a global health organisation, it is also made up of thousands of scientific experts from around the world who help generate health related advice for the member states of the WHO.
Warning bells were sounded in the first week of January this year, that a new type of pneumonia was spreading fast. At that time, many of us remained blissfully unaware of Wuhan and the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov2.
While the WHO been at the forefront of the current Covid-19 outbreak early on, many of our world leaders have remained distant and have taken insufficient preventative measures to stop the spread of SARS-Cov2 virus worldwide. Many countries started handwashing campaigns, but didn’t prepare healthcare workers or hospitals. Despite repeated warnings from the WHO, many health systems have been caught unaware and are currently facing the biggest healthcare crisis in modern times.
Blaming the failure of health systems, particularly in the US which can be attributed to many factors, on the WHO in order to reduce its funding is both reckless and dangerous. As the daily rate of infections and deaths in the US continue to climb, resources must be reallocated to healthcare instead of investigating the WHO in what has been described as “the midst of a storm” by Hans Kluge WHO Europe’s regional director.
Now that the pandemic is gaining its foothold in the global south, where we face a huge burden of other infectious diseases, we need the WHO more than ever. The WHO is the only global health organisation and has the tools to combat the Covid-19 pandemic with unprecedented and truly global consequences. They need the unwavering support of its member states so they can continue to provide unbiased advice on public health, in particular to member states that do not have means of their own.
Abandoning the WHO during a pandemic is akin to abandoning the humanitarian and healthcare needs of millions worldwide who need it most, and it threatens the fight against COVID everywhere.