The letter by Dan Jurek (April 29) titled "Mistakes made by WHO were overwhelming" is not based on facts and is not accurate.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was established in 1948 as part of the United Nations after World War II. WHO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland with six semi autonomous offices and 150 field offices worldwide. WHO incorporated the assets of the League of Nations from WWI, including personnel, medical information and expertise.
WHO's responsibility is to maintain universal public health, to respond to world emergencies, to promote international health issues, to collect data on global health issues and to publish the document “The World Health Report.”
WHO is composed of 194 countries with health specialists. The executive board selects the Director General. The current Director General is Tedros Adhanom, the former Health Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia. WHO's budget is based on assessed and voluntary contributions from members as well as private doctors and foundations. In 2018 the budget was $4.2 billion; most of the funding came from voluntary contributions from member states. The U..S., the largest contributor of $400 million; the assessed contributions for 2018-2019 was $237 million; voluntary contributions were $656 million.
The pandemic criticism has brought the WHO, the Director General and China into critical scrutiny. Accusations and charges were brought by the U.S. that the Director General relied on information supplied by the Chinese authorities on COVID-19 in Wuhan, rather than by self investigation by WHO staff experts.
WHO may have the experts; however, China is a sovereign country, and WHO needs the consent of China for any internal investigation. True cooperation by member states is the cardinal rule; however, how do you reject the report legitimately submitted by a sovereign nation without fact? The Trump administration cutting funding to WHO and accusing the Director General of withholding information about COVID-19 is not legitimate. Most European Union members do not support our views.
WHO has done a fantastic job for the world in the eradication of malaria, smallpox, polio, ebola and tuberculosis. If wealthy nations do not help low-income countries, what will happen to the spread of diseases in the world? As one should know, we Americans are not alone in this world. We are all interconnected. The pandemic has spread to the four continents of the world. Because of political differences with China not being honest in reporting the COVID-19, we feel justified in cutting the funding. By cutting funding to WHO, China is not going to be the loser; the U.S. may think so, but humanity is going to suffer throughout the world.
There are some serious questions as to how COVID-19 began in Wuhan, but cutting aid to WHO is not the correct thing to do. As the wealthiest free democratic country, we should be a proud and generous nation. We should all work toward a vaccine.
Alexander Nadesan, Bemidji, is Emeritus Professor of International Relations/United Nations at Bemidji State University.