WHO should seek other financial sources than the US

pic by AFP

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s threat of suspension of US financial support for the World Health Organisation (WHO) is totally unacceptable.

Cutting off funds at this juncture will be suicidal for WHO. To be fair, WHO had already warned the US in February that it could become the new epicentre for Covid-19 after Wuhan in China, unless the US administration takes tough preventive measures against the viral infection, which had already started killing thousands of its victims in China and Europe.

The US had been forewarned, but the US government did not take it seriously, allowing Covid-19 to begin infection on a slow basis before it started to increase exponentially.

Covid-19 has now infected more than half a million Americans and the number of its dead has shockingly increased to more than 41,000.

The US, with all its advancement in medical technology, could have prevented the catastrophe no matter whether it originated in China or elsewhere, or whether WHO underestimated or downplayed the significance of the killer virus.

It is the duty of the US government to protect its citizens.

The US is also notorious for its various cover-ups as revealed by Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

It is the high number of infections and the number of dead that have prompted the US to act against the WHO, which it finds as a convenient scapegoat to blame during this US presidential election year.

This new virus and its lethal strength must have bewildered the Chinese who sought to contain it within their borders. China has every right to try to contain the disease as it has sufficient medical and scientific resources, unlike any poor Third World country which runs to the WHO when there is a medical crisis.

However, within a few weeks, Covid-19, as it was named later, spread fast and Western Europe, South Korea were the next to be hit.

The rest of the world, including Malaysia, had time to prepare a defence against Covid-19.

If a country’s healthcare system and government do not respond fast to a danger, why blame WHO?

If Malaysia can make good progress in reducing infections and deaths, why can’t the US? In an interdependent globalised world, it is not easy to stop travel or economic activities at the snap of a finger.

The US needs to stop threatening many of the United Nations’ (UN) agencies and blackmail them to toe the US line or face financial consequences. The US has done this before to Unesco, the Palestinian Authority and others.

The UN Security Council is forced to give preference to the US agenda. All these happen because the US is the main financial provider. This situation has to stop and more countries, both developed and middle-level prosperous nations, have to share in the financial outlay of all the UN agencies.

This is the only way to stop US domination and threats. As an illustration, the European NATO members, as well as South Korea and Japan are now increasingly footing the bill for US forces stationed in these countries.

How is it that now these countries are able to do so, but not before the Trump Presidency as President Trump had hit out at these countries for not sharing the defence bill. Many countries would not prefer to pay unless forced to do so.

The same should apply to WHO. More countries need to contribute to WHO to keep the world safe, and the US suspension of funds should motivate them to do so.

Even China, which has prospered so much in the last few decades to become the world’s second economic superpower, gives only a meagre amount to WHO.

Since WHO is a very important organisation, all countries must pay a certain quota based on their status, and it should not be based on their choice as to how much they want to pay.

This is also one of the reasons for the shortage of WHO funds. Now, even more money is needed to fight Covid-19 and for other purposes.

WHO needs to source funds from other avenues. Presently, the mega pharmaceutical multinationals do not contribute or pay anything to WHO as only the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is much sought after for the sale of drugs and medicines or vaccines.

WHO, which has eminent medical scientists and researchers in its payroll, can also approve and sanction the sale of medicines and health products worldwide in return for a payment — which is a well-established commercial practice — and will assist it financially for its global mission to provide better health for mankind.

The pharmaceutical firms will definitely want the approval of WHO, as well as the FDA for international marketing and sales. Consumers will also be satisfied that they are indirectly contributing to the coffers of WHO.

A lot of firms making and marketing various kinds of health products, drugs, medicines or vaccines will seek WHO’s stamp of approval.

The medical, pharmaceutical nd health businesses are a multibillion-dollar revenue earner today. FIFA gets billions of dollars from endorsing sports products, so why not WHO for endorsing drugs and medicines.

Philanthropists too can contribute funds and donations to WHO as part of their corporate social responsibility. Not only must there be more money for WHO for its various worldwide programmes, but also assurances and safeguards that it will be properly and judiciously spent.

V Thomas
Sg Buloh, Selangor

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.