WHO versus US keeps everyone unsafe - GulfToday

WHO versus US keeps everyone unsafe

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Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The formal withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes the situation more challenging for the world community, which is already facing tremendous heat from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The withdrawal itself is not breaking news as US President Donald Trump has been talking about it for some time, but it would hardly help break the chain of the pandemic.

Compounding the worries, the World Health Organisation has acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease passes between people.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.

The WHO had previously stated the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.

Trump has made good on threats to deprive the UN body of its top funding source over its response to the coronavirus, but the action amidst an unprecedented global pandemic raises questions about the timing and safety of people struggling to fight the virus.

Public health advocates and Trump’s political opponents have already voiced outrage at the departure from the Geneva-based body, which leads the global fight on maladies from polio to measles to mental health - as well as Covid-19.

Trump’s key political rival has also made it clear that the move is unacceptable.

The withdrawal is effective in one year — July 6, 2021 — and Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent, is virtually certain to stop it and stay in the WHO if he wins the November election.

After threatening to suspend the $400 million in annual US contributions and then announcing a withdrawal, the Trump administration has formally sent a notice to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and this would certainly add a barrier in the functioning of the global organisation.

Amidst COVID-19, the global community finds itself confronting parallel threats linked to health, economic and social crises that have crippled countries and left us at a standstill, as Liu Zhenmin, UN chief for economic and social affairs, points out.

As of the beginning of July, the death toll has reached over 500,000 and continuing to climb, with almost no country spared.

The effects of the pandemic have overwhelmed health systems globally; caused businesses and factories to shut down; kept 1.6 billion students out of school; disrupted global value chains and the supply of products; and are expected to push 71 million back into extreme poverty. Sadly, the poorest and the most vulnerable are being affected disproportionately, with women and children bearing the brunt.

The crisis has significantly affected the livelihoods of 1.6 billion informal sector workers, equalling half of the global workforce, exacerbating the vulnerability of one billion slum dwellers and disrupted lifesaving interventions, as UN officials note.

Indicating drops in world trade by 13 to 32 per cent, foreign direct investment by up to 40 per cent, and remittances to low- and middle-income countries by 20 per cent in 2020, Liu has also noted that “even developed countries are struggling to cope”.

In the present circumstances, the dire need for global solidarity and cooperation should never be understated.

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