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KT edit: An overhaul of WHO is need of the hour

Filed on May 12, 2021

It was in mid-January last year, when images of a strict lockdown in China’s Hubei province, particularly Wuhan, started flooding the Internet and news.


It’s almost unthinkable, but what if we could have turned the tide on the pandemic? Maybe, we could have saved a million or two lives from the highly infectious viral disease. Maybe, we could have saved millions more from being pushed deeper into the poverty pit. Just maybe, our children could have continued with regular school and play time in the company of their loved ones. Families would not have been separated and the departed would have been accorded dignified goodbyes.

These questions will haunt us for life, but they have come to the fore as we read the findings of the International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The panel has concluded that the catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented. Institutions, the report says, “failed to protect people” and science-denying leaders eroded public trust in health interventions. Delay, hesitation, and denial prevented us from acting fast. Denial, in fact, continues to wreak havoc in many societies and countries to date, where belief in folklore and home-based remedies are preferred over modern medicine or science-backed suggestions. What we are seeing is the dance of death at an epic scale. It’s mind-boggling.

It was in mid-January last year, when images of a strict lockdown in China’s Hubei province, particularly Wuhan, started flooding the Internet and news. By late January, China had built a 1,000-bed hospital at breakneck speed to cater to the growing number of people who were getting infected by Sars-Cov-2. The desperate scenes in China seemed too distant even though the virus had traversed through borders and reached a dozen countries in the first month of 2020. Yet, it seemed too distant, too unreal. The global leadership failed to pay heed then and prepare respective countries. February 2020 was the month of ‘lost opportunity’, and we continue to pay the price of that delay till date. Part of the responsibility blame also lies with the World Health Organisation that failed to issue a clarion call and identify the widespread disease a pandemic until March 11.

Today, over 160 million are suffering. More than 3.3 million have lost their lives. Millions more are at risk, and there is no concrete solution to end this pandemic in sight. Vaccine nationalism is preventing populations from getting inoculated. The world we live in cannot perhaps become pandemic proof, but there are several suggestions in the report that are worth taking note of. The first pertinent point is an overhaul of the WHO to give it more authority to send expert missions into countries immediately without waiting for their approval.

Our world will remain prone to the threat of new pathogens, especially zoonotic diseases because of population boom and environmental pressures. But perhaps setting up an international pandemic-financing facility could help. The widespread Sar-Cov-2 infection has taken our attention away from many other issues that are of grave concern to our collective wellbeing. Collective action at the global scale only can help us overcome this catastrophe and also prepare us well for the future. But are our world leaders ready to rise above their nationalistic views and agendas and think globally?





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