Nepal | May 29, 2020

The WHO is not our nanny!

Gripped by COVID19, all eyes are on WHO for guidance on what to do and what not to do?

Dr Sunoor Verma
Share Now:

KATHMANDU: Expecting WHO to be our universal nanny is unrealistic and dangerous, especially in the time of crisis. WHO is a body that brings together global expertise, health intelligence and experience to all its member states. Every organisation essentially represents the nature of its membership and what its members want it to be. WHO is made by your governments. Countries must take WHO’s guidance as their core ‘plan minimum’ and add to it their wisdom.

Gripped by COVID19, all eyes are on WHO for guidance on what to do and what not to do? All it takes is to imagine our response to the pandemic in the absence of the WHO. All said and done common perception is that this is an organisation owned by member states and would be closest that we could get to neutral information. Many criticise WHO for being influenced by one powerful state or another. However, no one has come up with an alternative body that would enjoy the reach or brand recognition of WHO while maintaining the entire range of health expertise from epidemics to road injuries. Governments quote the WHO, follow its guidance and feedback data into it. The network of collaborative centres that the WHO operates in partnerships with academia and government are an immense asset to the global pool of knowledge and capacity.

What started as a health crisis has very rapidly evolved into a societal crisis. Some countries have declared COVID19 as a national security crisis, some have termed it a national disaster and others have termed it a war. It is essential in this context to understand the role of the WHO, lower our expectations from it and shift specific tasks and responsibilities to other actors.

While the WHO teams around the globe churn out a range of information material on how to deal with COVID19, other actors need to take that information forward to their constituents. Take, for example, the WHO’s social distancing guidelines. These ought to be taken up by organisations within countries, modified to the local context, translated into the local languages and amplified using channels that work best in that given context. Marinating in inaction, awaiting tailor-made guidance for every population segment for every country is a luxury we can not afford now. In the country context, line ministries need to step up their game and use their intelligence to customise the science coming out of the WHO and channel it to their captive audiences.

Spoon-feeding is not an option in times of crisis. Similar to the WHO, as Ministries of Health are overwhelmed in responding to the COVID19, line ministries should not self-paralyse for lack of vetting of each communication piece from their Ministry of Health counterparts. There is neither the time nor any human resources can be spared for this. In the process of multiplying and amplifying messages, there might be a mistake made here and there, but they can be corrected. The risk of doing nothing is way higher than making a few mistakes.

Every emergency coordination meeting that I have attended at a country, regional or headquarters level invariably ends with one default recommendation- we must coordinate better. Pick any emergency response evaluation, and once again, you will see the same outcome. While coordination during a crisis may hold some limited promise within sectors- e.g. UN country teams, International NGOs, government ministries, it rarely works between industries. It is no different from how things function or don’t within a building of tenants or extended family- there will always be some who go solo, or only halfheartedly implement agreements. I have found this to be valid as emergencies draw out.

In a COVID19 global crisis, let us allow WHO to focus on giving the world its best technical intelligence and advise. Let us not put it under the expectation of global babysitting. It is the time to encourage all other ministries, organisations, industrial bodies and associations to study, digest and use the WHO’s knowledge and advance it to their audiences as quickly as possible using their innate intelligence and experience.

Let us help the WHO focus on its core business of knowledge generation and dissemination. It is time for each one of us to step up to our duty of using WHO’s output responsibly and pro-actively in beating the menace of COVID19.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Are we doing enough for the mental health of healthcare workers?

The number of coronavirus patients has been increasing over the past few days in Nepal. In the current scenario, it seems like the numbers would further increase in the coming days. Given that healthcare workers and frontline staff are the first responders to manage the ongoing pandemic with limited Read More...

India open to engaging with Nepal on the basis of mutual sensitivity, respect: MEA India

KATHMANDU: The External Affairs Ministry of India has expressed that it is willing to hold talks with Nepal in regard to the existing boundary issue between the two countries. Speaking at a presser today, the Indian MEA's official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said India is monitoring the situat Read More...

Italy's Serie A gets green light for June 20 restart

Sports minister Spadafora says top-flight soccer can resume Italian Cup matches could be staged before league restarts Serie A will be fourth of Europe's top five leagues to return Juventus hold one point lead over Lazio with 12 games left ROME: Italy's top-flight Serie A soccer le Read More...

English Premier League announces June 17 restart

League to resume season subject to safety requirements Starts with Villa v Sheffield Utd and Man City v Arsenal Full fixture list scheduled for weekend of June 19-21 All of the remaining 92 fixtures to be broadcast live MANCHESTER, ENGLAND: The Premier League season will restart Read More...

UN, AI demand impartial probe into Rukum incident

Kathmandu, May 28 The attention of United Nations in Nepal has been drawn to the incident in Rukum (west), where five Dalit youths lost their lives and two went missing when the Dalit youths were chased by a group of villagers. The Dalit youths had gone to the village to help their friend marry a Read More...

‘Nepali Congress will support new map of Nepal’

Kathmandu, May 28 Nepali Congress Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma said at a press conference today that his party would stand in favour of the newly issued country’s map when the issue would come up in the Parliament but the party had reserved the right to take an organisational decision on Read More...

SC rules lockdown time as zero period  

Kathmandu, May 28   The Supreme Court today ruled that the period between March 22 and the time when the lockdown would end should be considered zero period for those whose deadline for filing or contesting cases or joining court proceedings had lapsed.   The grand Full bench of the apex Read More...

Zuckerberg distances Facebook from Twitter in Trump fight

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg took pains to distance his company from Twitter and its fight with US President Donald Trump on Thursday, as the White House moved to scrap a law protecting social media companies. Republican Trump, who accuses social media firms of b Read More...