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It would be easier to ignore the World Health Assembly’s (WHA) deliberations in Geneva this week, but the opening address of the Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, deserves a response. Both the WHO and its director are completely divorcing themselves from reality, illustrating how dangerous and unfit for purpose the WHO has become. There is clearly no way that any vote should proceed on anything of importance that the WHO may be required to implement in the coming week of WHA deliberations.

Tedros’s emphasis was on pandemics, and the faltering agreements intended to address their risk, the new Pandemic Agreement, and amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR). While these are watered down and the Pandemic Agreement may not even get to a vote, his continued justification for centering greater coordination and power at the WHO speaks volumes about the problem we face.

The Covid-19 period has resulted, as Tedros notes in his address, in up to 20 million additional deaths. WHO-supported policies achieved this, for a virus whose mortality mostly occurred in chronically sick people over 75 years of age. The WHO notes that a little over 7 million are directly attributable to the virus. Many of these other 13 million occurred in low- and middle-income countries, in populations where less than 1% of people are over 75 years old and half are under twenty, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa.

This is a staggering, appalling, incompetent, and entirely predictable achievement. However, it is going to get much worse. The policies the WHO promoted closed supply lines, shut down the workplaces of tens of millions of day laborers, stopped travel and tourism income on which millions of low-income people rely, closed markets, and pushed over hundreds of millions into severe poverty. They increased the indebtedness of nations globally, with direct effects on child mortality and the ability to grow future economies.

As predicted by the WHO itself, malaria and tuberculosis deaths have increased, and they will stay higher as the impact of increased poverty bites. Funding for essential sanitation and nutrition programs has dropped as the WHO pushed for a shift in funding to mass vaccination in countries with young populations for a disease of the elderly to which they were already immune, supported with frankly idiotic slogans with more to do with advertising than public health, such as “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

In closing schools, for up to two years in some countries, the world has cemented in intergenerational poverty and inequality, overwhelmingly harming hundreds of millions of children at most future risk. Child labor has increased, and up to ten million additional girls are being forced into child marriage with the poverty and abuse that entails. When Tedros states in his opening WHA speech that “the whole world was taken hostage,” this should be what he is referring to. The world was taken hostage by the appalling people who took over public health, used the WHO as a tool with its leadership’s consent, and made hundreds of billions of dollars in profit through these harms foisted on others. Indeed, as Tedros notes, “covid has affected everybody.

Amidst all this rhetoric, the WHO is completely ignoring, and knowingly misrepresenting, what their own data tells them on the risk of natural pandemics. Whilst deliberately misleading countries and the media with claims that the risk of pandemics is rapidly increasing, they are fully aware that deaths from infectious diseases, and pandemics, have decreased over past centuries and are decreasing now. The databases and citations of reports from the WHO, the World Bank, and G20 High Level Independent Panel attest to this.

The causes of infectious disease deaths predominantly revolve around poor nutrition, sanitation, and supply lines for basic medicines. All these, improving before 2020, are now put at risk. Pretending that new diagnostic technologies that allow us to distinguish small virus outbreaks from the declining background constitute increased risk is a public health fallacy that must surely be deliberate. When Tedros states that the drafting teams of the pandemic texts “operated amid a torrent of mis- and disinformation,” he is correct, but it was not from the source he suggests.

So, when we are told that the “world was unprepared” for Covid-19, we should understand that we were unprepared for the hijacking of the WHO and public health policy, not for a virus that had an infection fatality rate in most countries little different than influenza. Pretending that deaths from ‘lockdowns’ were due to Covid adds to the current denial of reality. Lockdown was and should remain a term describing imprisonment. In public health it has been promoted by those who ended up gaining from the Covid debacle; private and corporate funders and their followers. There is a reason why public health previously stressed honest messaging and individual choice.

If the world is to actually address the risk presented by a repeat of Covid, then it had better address its cause – which looks increasingly likely to have been a laboratory leak from gain-of-function research. Nothing in the texts of the proposed Pandemic Agreement or IHR amendments even refers to this. Spending tens of billions per year on a surveillance network for natural threats will impoverish millions and divert funds from diseases of far higher burden, but do nothing to address the problem of research laboratories being paid to enhance virus virulence in humans. The proposed PABS scheme in the Pandemic Agreement in which the WHO will oversee increased passage of pathogens between laboratories and WHO-partnered pharmaceutical companies will likely do more to raise risk than reduce it.

We can all be relieved that the proposed pandemic texts are watered down from their egregious original versions and the Pandemic Agreement is unready for this WHA session. However, any increased coordination of power in the hands of the WHO, in its current state, is dangerous. The world has undergone enough damage in the past four years through misdirection and deliberate misinformation from an international agency that always knew better. Until the root causes of this are addressed, including ever-increasing influence on the organization of private individuals and corporate entities, and the glaring conflicts of interest in related public-private partnerships such as Gavi and CEPI, the world does indeed remain at increasing risk of the repeat of the disaster to which it was recently subjected.

We must first address the reasons why international public health is now about profit and centralization, rather than the health of populations. This won’t happen under the current version of the WHO, and does not appear on the WHA agenda. We are facing a mass denial of reality by the WHO and its leadership. Until this is rectified, any WHA votes that grant further powers or oversight to the WHO are unlikely to be in the interests of the world’s population, or the countries within which they live.

Republished with permission

David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

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