Why in news?
With the 73rd World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of WHO- – taking place through Videoconferencing, the Covid-19 pandemic is taking centre stage.
Call for Action: Investigate COVID-19
- WHA is taking up a motion backed by more than 120 countries, including India, that calls for a “stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of WHO coordinated international response to Covid-19.
- It also calls for the identification of the zoonotic source of the coronavirus and its transmission to human populations.
- Albeit, the motion refrains from mentioning China or Wuhan, its implementation will necessarily have to include investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak in the initial days.
- A probe into the origin of the coronavirus is important to understand how it mutated and spread so quickly.
China’s Position on Investigations
- China has been objecting to such a probe and even threatened Australia with trade repercussions for trying to drum up international support for an investigation.
- In fact, Canberra has already been hit with a beef strike with Beijing suspending imports from four major Australian suppliers.
- But with the WHA motion getting the backing of a majority of nations, China may not have a choice but to go along with it.
Fundamental Issue: Need to reform WHO
- The fundamental issue here is WHO’s limited ability to tackle a pandemic like Covid-19.
- The global health body can only issue advisories and has no enforcement powers.
- WHO should be reformed to play a more active role in preventing global health threats.
- The minimum it can do is ask for annual compliance reports from member countries vis-à-vis health recommendations made by it – something that its constitution already allows.
India and the Way Forward
- With India taking over the chair of the WHO executive board, it should push for new crisis management protocols and give the global health body some teeth.
- Covid-19 has shown that WHO can’t remain a soft adviser. It must helm a global health architecture that demands accountability.
-Source: Times of India