The World Health Organization (WHO) is tasked with a noble aim: to “promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable”. The United Nations agency deserves praise for its historic eradication of smallpox in the 1970s, and for its vaccination programs that have averted millions of preventable deaths among the poor from diseases like diphtheria, pertussis, measles and polio.
In recent decades, however, the WHO has become increasingly politicised, compromised and scandal-ridden. Its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is only the latest headline-maker in a growing list of fiascos and failures. Many remain unaware of the WHO’s array of scandals, though they are all on the public record.
Sadly, the world’s poorest have the most to lose as the WHO continues on its downward trajectory. The global health body is in dire need of reform. Until that reform takes place, consider seven reasons that the World Health Organization cannot and should not be trusted.
1. The Swine Flu Pharmaceutical Rort
Prior to the 2009 swine flu outbreak, top scientists advised the World Health Organization on its influenza policies and recommendations. As a result, the WHO lowered the threshold of what constitutes a pandemic and subsequently applied this label to the outbreak.
The WHO then raised widespread fears that millions would die unless Western nations provided over $1 billion in vaccine funding. Funds came in, and nations raced to stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs. In the end, the swine flu’s death toll was approximately the same as that of an annual flu season.
A year later, the British Medical Journal published a report revealing a major conflict of interest: the same scientists who had advised WHO had close financial ties to pharmaceutical companies that stood to profit from the sale of vaccines and other flu treatments. Ultimately, far more people than necessary were treated with the vaccine, and many of the stockpiled drugs were left unused.
More damning still was that the World Health Organization was aware of this conflict of interest but failed to publicly disclose it at the time or even identify the members of its advisory committee.
The Council of Europe — the international organisation that protects human rights and the rule of law in Europe — later held an inquiry into the affair. The inquiry’s report condemned the agency for its “waste of large sums of public money, and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public.” Neither WHO nor its advisers were held accountable in what the inquiry’s head called “one of the greatest medicine scandals of the century”.
2. Major Failures on Ebola
During the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, over 11,000 people died. It is now widely acknowledged that many of these deaths could have been avoided if the World Health Organization had responded more swiftly to the spread of the virus.
The first reports of the outbreak reached WHO in March of 2014. By April, Medecins Sans Frontieres was warning that Ebola was out of control in West Africa, but WHO disputed this assessment. It took until August for the WHO to finally declare a public health emergency.
After coming under fire from aid agencies, independent experts and journalists, WHO finally admitted serious failings in their handling of the crisis. “We have learned lessons of humility” the organisation wrote in a statement. They confessed that their initial response was
slow and insufficient, we were not aggressive in alerting the world… We did not work effectively in coordination with other partners, there were shortcomings in risk communications and there was confusion of roles and responsibilities.
An internal WHO document also admitted that “nearly everyone” at the peak health body made failures of judgment, and that “incompetent staff, bureaucracy and a lack of reliable information” were to blame — all this despite WHO receiving billions of dollars in annual funding. Ultimately, it was mostly the private sector and the United States which stepped up to end the Ebola crisis.
3. The ‘Monopolistic Philanthropy’ of Bill Gates
Some billionaires are satisfied with buying themselves an island. Bill Gates got a United Nations health agency in Geneva.
The article reported that the celebrity billionaire had recently become the WHO’s second largest donor after the United States, just outdoing the United Kingdom which came in third place. “This largesse gives him outsized influence over its agenda,” Politico wrote, warning that Gates’ contributions may be “distorting research priorities”.
Under his influence, the agency has apparently shifted its focus from building resilient health systems in poorer countries to a disproportionate emphasis on “projects with the measurable outcomes Gates prefers, such as the effort to eradicate polio,” and “delivering vaccines and medicines”.
More recently, Bill Gates has also praised China’s inhumane lockdowns, and openly advocated for a mass tech surveillance network to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
When Politico wrote its report, journalists interviewed 16 people and explained that most of them spoke on the condition of anonymity and were reluctant to openly criticise Gates. One Geneva-based NGO called Gates “one of the most influential men in global health” and said that he “is treated liked a head of state, not only at WHO, but also at the G20”.
Politico also warned that because so much of the Gates Foundation’s money is derived from corporate investments, WHO’s health policies could end up reflecting big business interests. To the extent that this is true, it is hardly the direction that should be taken by an agency with so much influence over international public health.
4. The Appointment of a Marxist Director-General
Ethiopian politician Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was appointed Director-General of the World Health Organisation in 2017. Before this appointment, he was Ethiopia’s Minister of Health (2005-2012) and then Foreign Affairs (2012-2016).
During his time in the Ethiopian parliament, Tedros represented the revolutionary Marxist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of which he was a prominent politbureau member. The Global Terror Database lists the TPLF as a terrorist organisation.
The government Tedros served has been accused of violent repression, electoral fraud, weaponising aid, and committing gross human rights violations by Human Rights Watch and other organisations. During his time as health minister, Tedros also covered up three cholera outbreaks — not a glowing résumé for the world’s top public health official.
There was significant public outcry when Tedros was announced as a candidate for WHO’s lead role. One denouncement came from the Amhara Professionals Union (APU), an advocacy group based in Washington DC that defends “the rights and interests of the Amhara people,” a minority ethnic group in Ethiopia it maintains has been subject to “heinous crimes” by the Ethiopian regime for over twenty five years.
The APU wrote that they would have happily supported Tedros’ candidacy if they “were to consider only our Ethiopian or African background”. But Tedros, they warned, was a “very poor choice for the job” who “lacks the competence, impartiality, accountability and transparency that we feel are required for a position of this magnitude”.
The group provided evidence that as health minister, Tedros had “treated his own citizens differently based on their ethnicity” — actions “contrary to WHO’s goal of building a better, healthier future for all people”. They also documented an unexplained 2.5 million decrease in the Amhara population during his health ministry tenure.
Tedros is the first Director-General in WHO’s 73-year history to hold the top job despite having no medical degree. He did, however, hire an American public relations firm to help deliver a winning presentation before the global body, and he was also supported by China, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to lobby for his election. “Bought by the Chinese government” is how former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the arrangement.
The cozy relationship between Tedros and China was evident long before WHO’s misplaced praise for the Chinese Communist Party’s Covid-19 response. Immediately following his election, Tedros voiced support for the CCP’s claims over Taiwan. He then appointed the brutal dictator Robert Mugabe — a CCP ally — as a WHO ‘goodwill ambassador’, before public backlash forced him to reverse course.
5. Unethical Travel Expenditure
The Associated Press revealed in 2017 that the World Health Organization routinely spends $200 million a year, or a tenth of its budget, on travel expenses. This is more than its annual expenditure on AIDS, hepatitis, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
On her visit to Ebola-struck West Africa, then director-general Dr. Margaret Chan “spent the night in the top-tier presidential suite at the beach-side Palm Camayenne hotel” according to AP. The suite had marble bathrooms, an eight-seat dining table and a price tag of over $1,000 a night. Chan’s travel expenses that year came in at more than $370,000.
During the Ebola crisis, Dr. Bruce Aylward — who oversaw WHO’s mismanaged response to the outbreak — spent almost $400,000 on travel. AP noted that he sometimes flew by helicopter to avoid traveling by jeep over muddy roads.
Though WHO introduced rules to try rein in its travel budget, senior officials have lodged internal complaints that staffers continue to book five-star hotels and business class flights with few repercussions.
Ian Smith, the executive director of Dr. Chan’s office, has admitted to apathy at WHO over this culture of misconduct. He told AP that “we, as an organisation, sometimes function as if rules are there to be broken and that exceptions are the rule rather than the norm.”
Over $800 million was spent on travel by WHO between 2013 and 2017.
On publishing its report, AP highlighted the irony that in preceding weeks, WHO had appealed for $100 million in donations to save Somalians from an ongoing drought, and a further $126 million to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen.
6. The Congo Sex Abuse Scandal
World Health Organization staffers coerced over 40 Congolese women into trading sex for jobs, according to investigations conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian.
The scandal, which took place during a 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak, has only come to light this year. It implicates three United Nations agencies in total and several other aid groups. Among the allegations are a case of rape, multiple women being infected with STIs, and the death of another who drank poison to end her pregnancy to a WHO staffer.
This is just the latest in what Vice News describes as “a decades old pattern of sexual abuse and solicitation of prostitution in countries ravaged by natural disasters” by United Nations agencies.
The Associated Press conducted its own separate investigations, which included interviews with dozens of WHO staffers, and troves of private emails and legal documents. The names of two WHO doctors surfaced repeatedly. One of these was Boubacar Diallo, who reportedly liked to brag about his connections with WHO’s chief, Tedros.
A nurse’s aid from the Congo alleged that Diallo offered her a job at WHO for twice her normal salary — on one condition: “He asked me to sleep with him”. She told AP that her family’s financial distress is what led her to accept the offer, and that the doctor made the same advance with several of her friends. Diallo has since denied the accusations.
The other doctor was Jean-Paul Ngandu. “Ngandu was accused by a young woman of impregnating her,” the AP report reads. Investigative journalists uncovered a contract signed by two WHO staffers providing for the woman’s health costs to be covered and land to be bought for her, in a bid to “protect the integrity and reputation” of WHO. Ngandu has also denied any wrongdoing.
When confronted about the Congo scandal in late 2020, WHO emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan claimed to have “absolutely no details of any of the individuals or any of the specific allegations.” But this was not true: the Associated Press found evidence that senior WHO management “was not only informed of alleged sexual misconduct in 2019 but was asked how to handle it”.
AP also obtained records of internal WHO meetings. At one of these, Dr. Ryan told colleagues that the Congo allegations “reflect a culture” that “is in some sense the tip of an iceberg”. At a separate meeting, another senior staffer said the risk “remains high across our operations” and that WHO needed “more robust supervision” to prevent similar incidents into the future. During a discussion on sex abuse, a further staffer expressed concern that “the impunity with which we have operated is leading to this.” Twelve WHO officials were sought for comment by AP. None responded.
Once media reports of the scandal came out, Tedros announced an independent investigation which is due to release its findings in August of this year.
7. Disastrous Pro-CCP Response to Covid-19
The duplicity and corruption of the World Health Organization was most clearly on display in its early handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, now the largest pandemic in modern history. It gave Tedros and his senior colleagues an ideal test of loyalty to China’s ruling Communist Party — one they passed with flying colours.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus began spreading in the city of Wuhan possibly as early as October. By late November, case numbers were rapidly rising, and the CCP began to arrest doctors and journalists who raised the alarm about this novel virus. In time, some of them would mysteriously disappear, while others like would succumb to the disease.
On December 31, Taiwan alerted the World Health Organization that the virus was spreading through human-to-human transmission. But having excluded Taiwan from the World Health Assembly since the beginning of Tedros’ leadership, WHO ignored Taiwan’s warning and hid this information from the public.
Finally, on the same day, China reported Covid-19’s existence to WHO, but refused any assistance, claiming to have the outbreak under control. A fortnight later, as deaths began to be recorded, WHO unquestioningly repeated CCP propaganda that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of Covid-19.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
Within days, China would admit that the virus is highly contagious and transmissible through human contact. To the incredulity of many global health experts, it would still take until the end of January for WHO to declare a public health emergency, and until mid March to declare a global pandemic.
When President Trump and other world leaders imposed travel bans from China, the CCP heavily criticised the move. Once again, WHO sided with China. Tedros claimed there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” Meanwhile, the CCP was locking down 50 million of its citizens and halting key domestic travel — all the while sending thousands of passengers abroad, including to Italy whose hospitals were quickly overwhelmed.
The CCP went to great efforts to block news stories that tried to report accurate case numbers, and it heavily censored social media posts reporting on the outbreak. It took a visit from Tedros to President Xi Jinping before international WHO experts were finally allowed access to Wuhan in mid-February, leaving many questions unanswered about the CCP’s activities in the intervening period. China also delayed for 17 days before releasing the virus’s genome sequence to the outside world.
Despite China’s long catalogue of misconduct, senior WHO officials consistently sung the praises of the Communist nation for its handling of Covid-19. “The Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak,” Tedros said in a speech. He added:
The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome, and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive, and beyond words. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries.
Most of this was demonstrably untrue, even at the time. In fact, it is now evident that China’s months of lies and cover-ups, its suppression of dissidents, and its international politicking over Covid-19 prevented other nations taking action sooner, leading to the suffering and death of needless millions.
Even so, China enjoyed endless praise from the world’s peak health body. “I will praise China again and again,” said Tedros, who doubled down when asked if the CCP applied pressure for such vocal support from WHO.
Nearly every step of the way — whether on the magnitude of the threat, masking advice, the reopening of wet markets, or the role of the Wuhan lab — the World Health Organisation was both wrong and unapologetic in its deference to the deceitful Communist leadership of China.
As if any more evidence of WHO’s subservience to the CCP were required, consider a remote interview that took place between a Hong Kong journalist and senior Tedros advisor Dr. Bruce Aylward — the aforementioned helicopter enthusiast.
When asked for comment on Taiwan’s response to the virus, Aylward first pretended he couldn’t hear the question. On being re-asked, he interrupted the reporter, saying, “No that’s okay, let’s move to another [question] then.” She persisted, so he switched off the call. When the connection was re-established and the reporter asked the question a fourth time, Aylward refused to acknowledge the existence of Taiwan, saying, “We’ve already talked about China.”
Over decades, the World Health Organization has become corrupt, inept, wasteful and mired in scandals. It is led by a Marxist revolutionary and is under the sway of billionaires, Big Pharma and communist dictators. Nations shouldn’t fund it, and people shouldn’t trust it.
If the WHO can’t be reformed, it needs to be shut down and its funds be redirected to groups that are serving with integrity and accountability. The world’s poorest depend on it.
[Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images]