US President Donald Trump at his press briefing in New Delhi Tuesday
File photo of US President Donald Trump | Representational image | PTI
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It is becoming kind of fashionable to criticise the World Health Organization these days. There are many Indians who have joined the US President Donald Trump in calling Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, an incompetent, shady Chinese proxy in the current coronavirus crisis. But Trump’s decision to cut funding to the WHO will only hurt India.

Criticism of Tedros should be insulated from undermining an organisation like the WHO, which still plays a key role in countries like India.

Making the WHO go bankrupt in the middle of a pandemic would mean that India will have no sense of best global practices while responding to public health crises like the Covid-19. There will be no reliable source of information to vaccine developments or international data.

It is tempting for some in India to brush away multilateral organisations, like Donald Trump is doing. But we are not the United States, and our public health system is still creaky and beleaguered with a myriad annual outbreaks.

Going beyond the current pandemic, India consistently performs poorly across various health indices and is often at the cusp of outbreaks such as encephalitis or measles. According to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), there were 553 outbreaks reported in 2008, which went up to 2,679 in 2016. The WHO helps guide the states in the right direction, with its focus areas ranging from ‘communicable disease control’ and ‘universal health coverage’ to ‘health systems development’ and ‘health security and emergencies’.


Also read: Will Trump’s WHO attack hurt global health readiness or much-needed wake-up call?


India needs WHO

Whether it was the 2001 Gujarat earthquake or the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, the WHO came up with timely and detailed situation reports. Besides providing a better sense of the situation to the authorities, these information also help donors across the world coordinate their efforts.

The WHO gets its funding from two sources, membership fee payments by “assessed contributors” – based on the size of their economy and population – and voluntary payments by governments, firms, and philanthropic organisations. The US’ contribution accounted for $400 million in the WHO’s $6 billion budget for 2018-19).

If the WHO goes bankrupt right now, it would severely restrict its ability to “coordinate international efforts around issues like vaccine research, procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and providing technical assistance and experts to help countries fight the pandemic,” noted an explainer in The Conversation.

The inability of WHO to carry out these tasks would have dire consequences for India — as well as other smaller countries in Africa and Asia — in dealing deal with Covid-19.

As long as Covid-19 hotspots remain spread throughout the world, it will be nearly impossible for countries like India to reopen to other countries and return to normality. More structurally, it also raises the possibility of many more future outbreaks – originating from smaller countries – that could yet again spread havoc in India.

In the longer run, such a move would ensure that states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will face difficulties in coming up with comprehensive plans to help improve poor maternal and newborn health since the WHO helps with new research and regular assessments of specific disease outbreaks.

Recently, the organisation worked with the union ministry of health and family welfare to come up with ‘WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy 2019–2023’ — which aims to help the Indian government achieve its health sector goals. This country-specific blueprint took into account India’s 2017 National Health Policy and talks about how to improve the outcomes of policies such as Ayushman Bharat.


Also read: Global cooperation was breaking, Trump’s attack on WHO just makes it worse


India loses power as Trump attacks global institutions

Donald Trump’s decision to cut the WHO’s funding marks a deeper and more worrying trend. It is part of a broader trend to erode the global rules-based order that the US essentially built itself in the post-war era. Since he came to power in 2017, Trump has effectively ended funding for a host of United Nations programmesdestroyed the World trade Organization (WTO) and the global trading order, and led to the weaponisation of economic interdependence.

The corrosion of such a rules-based order would mean the return of big power competition. As scholar Robert Kagan argues in The Jungle Grows Back, “when world order dies, you don’t instantly get a new one, but you live in a period of prolonged anarchy… and it marks the return of clashes between brute state powers.”

Currently, India neither has the economic and hard power nor the expertise to drive global outcomes, regardless of how much rhetorical power projection the Narendra Modi government might indulge in. So, the next time Trump thanks you for sending an order of hydroxychloroquine, request him to not cut the WHO’s funding during a pandemic.

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29 Comments Share Your Views

29 COMMENTS

  1. Messrs Rahul R. Menon and David: I agree with you that the Indian government should have invested in healthcare. But the cures for many diseases are not always discovered in India and hence the need for international co-operation through multi-lateral institutions like the WHO. Thus, the Salk vaccine for combating polio was developed by Dr Jonas Salk in the US in 1955 but made available in India and other countries through international co-operation. There are many such examples of countries working together to solve healthcare issues have been enabled by the WHO.

    Mr Menon asks: “When should end this reliance with WHO”.

    The answer is NEVER. When diseases such as COVID 19 arise in one country and rapidly spread to another, we need to have a global mechanism through which information is disseminated, research is coordinated and help is provided to weaker economies or to economies ravaged by a pandemic. Indeed, all countries in the world need the WHO, including highly developed ones like the USA. Whilst Trump may rave and rant and act outraged at the WHO, the fact remains that the WHO warned the US about the impending pandemic. It was Trump who chose to downplay it in order not to disturb stock markets and impact his re-election campaign. Trump’s, scapegoating the WHO merely serves to deflect attention away from his own pathetic performance during this crisis. Indeed, it was just a performance for the TV cameras and not for the public.

    Admittedly, China has thrown its weight about in the WHO and in many other multi-national fora. It has indulged in not so subtle arm-twisting, bullying, chequebook diplomacy, debt diplomacy and many other unsavoury practices. Incidentally, the very same practices that powers like the US, UK, Russia, France etc. indulge in all the time. But the Chinese handling of this global crisis and the justified global anger at China has inflicted enormous economic, political and reputational damage on the country. I suspect that Xi Jinping will pay a political price and will probably face an ignominious exit. But that is Xi’s funeral.

    As a developing country with an abysmal health infrastructure, India sorely needs multi-national institutions like the WHO. Cosying up to Trump has its consequences in the world. And then, one never knows whether what Trump is indulging is posturing or policy. And then again, one never knows whether this draft-dodging, many-times bankrupt, misogynistic, racist charlatan will get re-elected. Whilst Indians might re-elect mirage makers with a zero grasp of basic economics and an admiration for fascism, I suspect Americans won’t.

  2. Those who believe that WHO is of great benefit for them must pay for the services .

    If you cannot afford to pay the full price then the one who makes up the difference deserve as a minimum our gratitude and appreciation and definitely not our mockery and abuse.
    If US demands accountability and responsibility then it is well justified as it contributes billions of dollars for WHO.
    Remember “ The one who pays the piper, calls the tune”

    • Canadian Ben: I work for a large international organisation myself and that is not the way such organisations, particularly inter-governmental organisatons work. After all if your theory “The one who pays the piper, calls the tune” were to hold, then the most powerful economies and countries with large militaries would be solely calling the shots. In reality that does not happen. Sometimes, even tiny Vatican with a population under 1000 people, no military and little economic activity is seen to wield more power than larger countries. You also forget that there are “blocs” within most internatonal organisatons that effectively tie down hegemons.

      At the end of the day, countries join internatonal organisations and surrender some sovereignty because the benefits accruing from such a surrender are more than adequately compensated by the benefits of co-opearation and following mutually agreed rules, treaties and accords. Yes, from time to time, countries go “rogue” and stake their own course as the Trump admin has done now. But, in the long run, a transactional approach to international relations is fraught with dangers and uncertainties. Additionally, countries have reputations that they cultivate and safeguard. Even a perosn like you would accept that China’s reputation, its ecconomy and its standing, particularly in the very regions it was trying to establish its power has taken a massive body blow due to its handling of the Corona crisis in the WHO and elsewhere. Similarly, most US economists and political scientists do not agree with Trumpistas like you that a transactional, “throwing your weight about” approach would benefit the US in the long run. And when Trump is gone, the US will return to the table.

      Finally, regardless of China’s attempts to become a hegemon at the WHO and in many other fora have backfired spectacularly. It will be very, very hard for China to win back trust both regionally and globally. China’s debt diplomacy in Africa and elsewhere will now take a beating. And I am willing to bet that the US, not being an utterly ir-rational actor will step into the vacuum created by the exit and ejection of China.

      As they say in my field of work, diplomacy:

      “If you are not at the table, you might end up on the menu”

  3. “Give us money so that we can abuse you !” is the rallying call by the leftist jihadi outfits (who fancy calling themselves PROGRESSIVE) against all hardworking, innovative , frugal and merit based persons and societies.

    The irony is that “We will abuse you more, if you dare to take away your money on the name of accountability or our own brand of politicking”

    After all, accountability and Responsibility are terms used by Capitalist Pigs!

  4. We as Indian Do not trus the Wire , The Print ….Looking at their record ..Now i say Indian must always do what The Wire and The print says.
    i am not expert but looking at the history of The print now i am convinced India should and must boycott WHO for sure and stop all funding immediately

  5. India should beg in front of who which support china that’s what author says… First the author should ask chinese govt to release all journalist they arrested for spreading covid news… India is a democracy and can side with only democracy

  6. Islamic Jihadist party BJP needs to first stop and block Chinese communist party investments in India. A few days back Chinese communist party picked up stake in over 1% of HDFC bank and very discounted rates due to the market crash.

    On on hand Islamic Jihadist party has consistent raised taxes since 2014 on the other hand it is frame tax rules only favourable to foreign based entities . Complete double taxation of dividends on top of that there is further 4% “education” cess makes domestic investors heavily penalized for investing in capital markets. This should be seen as treason.

    CCP virus was imported to India through flight links with China and now India is buying PPEs. This is the biggest shame. This Islamic Jihadist government in Delhi is basically endorsing the brutal Chinese communist party regime of China.

  7. Hi, I’ll complete the headline (in my view)
    Dear Indians, don’t rush to support everything Trump does. WHO funding cut only hurts us “in short term” – but gain in long term.
    Do not support communists or socialists, even if it means you die – they stripped indians of their liberties and dignity by denying them good food, good products and banning them from working or improving their living conditions or starting a new business or enterprise. Its better to die than living such measly existence.

  8. There is “INDIA” — that means people like you who have rights, money, society and are treated as human beings — and a part of society.
    And there are others, people like us — who, are completely ostracized, blamed for everything, don’t have any rights — to vote or otherwise get any treatment for common ailments that you people get. We live as second class citizens in the presence of an increasingly assertive non-working class which bargains us out of society.
    And when we write the truth, they call us terrorists or something else. If they value the country — they should fight goons in society that don’t respect others — and protect us from oppression instead of stopping us from speaking out.

  9. India may need WHO but nobody can deny their loyalities toward china.Nobody can deny China’s role in this global desaster.If you look at the longterm effect of doing nothing agaist Chinese aggression and their puppet cronies like WHO and some Indian media then future will be far worse than the effects of WHO leaving India…..

  10. This time we know the mistake. Raise the money pumped to health sector in our country from 1.5% of gdp to atleast 3.5%. Stop relying on others for help. We should be able to do stuffs on our own. In this tough time, we got to observe how different nations reacted to this. I bet all the nations are now thinking about self reliance.

  11. No. When should end this reliance with WHO. This is the time to become self sustainable in terms of health. We should be able to take care of ourselves now. This pandemic is like a wake up call to all the nations on the globe.

  12. Instead on relying on international support maybe the Indian government should’ve invested in the public healthcare system rather than spending millions on statues. Maybe you should write an article about that.

  13. And here we have a selfish author who believes his country is the only one going through a tough time. Instead on relying on international support maybe the Indian government should’ve invested in the public healthcare system rather than spending millions on statues. Maybe you should write an article about that.

  14. I guess the views expressed in this article are personal opinion of the columnist..So I suggest him to keep his biased and communist ideas to himself..Don’t spit n puke on public platforms because it stinks..Get lost from here

  15. In India chattering classes always wanted to say American President is our president and remained unhappy with Nehru because he didn’t take that path. Our western neighbour was always a client state of US. Did it take them far ?

  16. The writer appears to belong to the ossified group of oldies who held sway during the brown sahib’s time, when the unwashed majority of Indians had to be whipped to order. Such people have been booted out, and non the sooner. This expert repeats ad nauseum how poor India is and that many infections are always on the cusp of exploding. The worthy should explain how is it that if the contribution of WHO was so essential, why has the situation not improved? And only a moron will try to talkdown to us that without WHO, there will not be any inter country collaborations and cooperation. We are on firm ground, that corruption and incompetence should never be condoned, otherwise nations will have to submit to blackmail due to TINA factor. Hats off to Trump for a bold decision.

  17. Provided WHO should
    1. Stop travel by Business Class At all levels with immediate effect.
    2. Include Taiwan as a sovereign nation into WHO.
    3. Remove Tedros with immediate effect and replace him by a medical doctor.
    4. Try Tedros and his associates in a court of law for this genocide.

  18. Firstly the WHO is a Knowledge dissemination organization not an implementation agency any longer.
    Secondly, there are numerous other NGOs and Orgs that have greater transparency, less political corruption, accountability than the UN’s WHO. Eg: CDC , ECDC, MSF, IRC etc.
    Thirdly, the WHO is neither a research institution nor has the ability to conduct research for the global commons.

    This pandemic has demonstrated that ultimately India is ALONE – each country will take care of itself and without money or technology, WHO nor any other international body will do anything to save Indian lives.

    India should follow Trump – stop funding the WHO and invest in our own healthcare bodies like the ICMR, disease surveillance network and research institutes like NIV etc that will save Indian lives and our livelyhoods.

    Today it is Indian trained doctors/nurses, using Indian made PPEs and Indian made drugs, Indian ventilators in Indian Govt Hospitals leading the fight. Indian institutes researching a vaccine, Indian research organizations investigating the origins of the virus!

    What has the WHO done??

  19. When ever interest of China or Russia is cornered either by India’s action or any other western country action incl USA, some lobbies in Media/Journalists/Political party leaders start activating a concerned voice to create a Public view in favor of Leftist Lobby supporting Russia or China direct or in-direct action. Why Article is exposing only US action in reducing budget? The Article is not telling why US is cutting Money to WHO ? Why Lobby is telling India what to do or what not to do. Is India is such weak country even after 70 years still dependent on WHO? Sheer Non-sense. Always a Lobby exists in India to support China & Russian interest since 1950.

  20. Indians do not in fact admire Donald Trump. Viewed objectively, except for selling military hardware, his administration has done nothing of note to help India.

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