WHO responds to US pressure; Elects panel to meet China-centric criticism

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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WHO Director General
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a recent media briefing

Pressure has been mounting upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to act following heavy criticism from the U.S. President Donald Trump’s government, which accused the WHO of being “China-centric”.

Earlier this week, the U.S had also announced its decision to officially withdraw from the agency in a year and subsequently stop its contribution, which was the largest among all, to the global organization.

As a response, the WHO is setting up an independent panel to study its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the governmental response worldwide.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus informed that the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will head the panel.

“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation, an honest evaluation,” Tedros told a virtual meeting with representatives of WHO’s 194 member states.

The co-chairs will pick out the other members of the team. The group will be responsible to send an interim report to an international health ministers conference in November and will be expected to issue a “substantive report” in May 2021.

In May, the European Union had submitted a resolution calling for an evaluation of the global response to COVID-19. This was unanimously agreed by all the member states of WHO.

Helen Clark said the task would be “exceptionally difficult” when addressing the meeting.
Johnson-Sirleaf, whose country was devastated in 2014-2016 by West Africa’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic, said she looked forward to “doing whatever we can to respond” to the challenges of the pandemic.

According to data, more than 12 million people worldwide are known to have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and 548,429 died.