WHO should have more power to review outbreaks: European Union

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Leaders across Europe are vouching for greater powers to the World Health Organization (WHO) to independently investigate outbreaks and coerce countries to provide more data on regional COVID-19 spreads as the relentless pandemic has exposed the body’s numerous deficiencies.

After his interaction with various European Union ministers on how the WHO can be strengthened, German health minister Jens Spahn observed that the U.N. health agency should receive more political support and financial backing for its international efforts to manage acute health crises.

“The WHO can’t be on its own and carry the weight of this pandemic alone,” he said at a press briefing.

Meanwhile, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides remarked that EU institutions provided $100 million to the world health body last year.

WHO has been repeatedly criticized by U.S. President Donald Trump for its alleged affinity towards China and its efforts to protect the People’s Republic in covering up the initial extent of the pandemic.

America, the agency’s single-biggest donor subsequently withdrew U.S. funding for WHO and later pulled the U.S. out of the organization altogether.

In a draft document provided by the German Health Ministry and the European Commission, the EU member states observed that the extraordinary demands of COVID-19 “outweigh the current WHO capacities and its ability to support member states.”

Currently, WHO has no authority to independently investigate pandemics and instead relies on countries to approve its list of proposed experts for any visit and is largely subject to an agenda set by the countries.

The EU panel also pushed for “increased transparency … in addition to a more effective reporting system for countries to provide WHO with data in health emergencies” as WHO publicly complained at the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak that countries were not sharing enough information while not revealing the names.

The EU proposals for WHO reform are expected to be discussed at a meeting of the agency’s member states next month.