The WHO Saved Us This Pandemic

Dumb, rich countries are blaming the messenger. Most of the world did fine.

The African Union and WHO in November 2019

The WHO helped save our asses this pandemic. By us, I mean people like me. People in Sri Lanka, Asia, in Africa, in the Caribbean, the COVID underdogs, the nations that somehow defended ourselves while the west was drinking bleach and blaming China. You know, most of the world.

Western commentators say the WHO failed because they cannot see us. We’re some dumb darkies that disasters happen to, we cannot possibly survive without their help. It must have been the weather, or the BCG vaccine.

It was not. We saved ourselves, and we couldn’t have done it without clear WHO warnings, their working test-kits, and decades of ongoing help.

Poorer nations (ie, most of the world) fought back COVID-19 by working with the WHO and working hard. You need to see us. You need to learn, and you need to stop attacking the institution we all depend on.

We also built the pyramids, it wasn’t aliens. Just open your mind, and open a map. Just look:

COVID-19 deaths per capita

Stop explaining things away for a second, just look. Africa and most of Asia did OK. The numbers are highly fluid, I’m just talking about the first wave. And don’t tell me it’s a marathon, y’all are running on stumps now.

Most of the places that depended heavily on the WHO did well. The places that ignored or fought the WHO are doing terrible (UK, Europe; US, Brazil). How can you say that the WHO failed? Y’all failed yourselves. Don’t shoot the messenger.

What About China?

But why didn't the WHO stop the pandemic in China? Why didn’t they make them respond faster? Why didn’t they listen to Taiwan? You’re asking the wrong questions.

We’re in the middle of Cold War II, between China and the US, centered over Taiwan. You’re asking why the WHO didn’t resolve that. What do you want them to do? Occupy Wuhan? Fortify Taiwan? With what army?

The WHO is a health organization. They sit on top of our messy politics and try to get people to work together. It’s like herding cats, and they have to take every member state at their word. The system is built on trust, not coercion. They have no guns. They’re not Captain Planet. The WHO is not going to resolve Cold War II. Stop blaming them for it.

Yes, China could have reacted faster, but don’t act so high and mighty above China either. Every country delayed, often by more time. If the outbreak happened in the US or UK they’d still be blaming it on 5G towers and drinking bleach.

This is the world we live in. We have messy politics and imperfect institutions. People are slow and stupid. People are wrong. You need to work with it and do your best to save your people. Most countries in the world know this. They worked with the WHO, kept their own counsel, and defended themselves. They’re grown-ups.

Meanwhile, the baby states that threw their plate on the floor and screamed are blaming the WHO for not nannying them. And they’re trying to tear our global institution down. They need to put away the privilege and open a map.

Behold, The World

Just look. Let go of the bias that only rich countries have agency. Let go of the first world (west) and second world (now China) view and look at the third. Technically, the third world is just Earth. We’re they third rock from the sun. Just put down the cold war for a minute and look across the Earth, with open eyes.

Here are three examples of how the WHO helped. There are well over a hundred.

1. Mongolia

Health Minister Davaajantsan Sarangerel (right) with WHO representative Sergey Diorditsa

Mongolia had the best coronavirus response in the world. Zero local transmissions. A no-hitter. Don’t tell me they got lucky, read the link. Mongolia worked hard, and they worked with the WHO.

On January 22nd the Mongolian sat side-by-side with the WHO rep and announced that shit was real and they were going to squash it. And they did. Mongolia had its own, unique aggressive response. They closed borders, they did masking. This wasn’t WHO advice, but the WHO is not there to make decisions for you. Mongolia made its own decisions, with WHO support. Test kits, experts on the ground, the WHO was there.

COVID Underdogs: Mongolia
The best COVID-19 response in the world

2. The Caribbean

Testing in Haiti, via PAHO (part of the WHO)

I’ve covered Trinidad & Tobago in-depth, but across the Caribbean, the WHO was there as well. In early February, PAHO (their Pan-American wing) literally island-hopped to drop off testing supplies and train everyone.

Virology experts from the Pan American Health Organization have travelled to the Caribbean region to ensure that laboratory specialists are trained and equipped to identify and respond to potential imported cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19). (PAHO)

The US and Brazil are members of PAHO, they just spurned support and now they’re blaming the WHO. Which is bullshit. Just look at the success of people in the Caribbean that listened, and who worked with the WHO to save themselves.

COVID Underdogs: Trinidad & Tobago
Beating an epidemic with speed

3. African Union

On February 5th, the African Union announced an all-Africa task force — with WHO

Since the onset of the outbreak, Africa CDC has worked to strengthen response capacity for an eventual outbreak of the disease on the continent.
“In close collaboration with WHO and other partners, we are preparing the continent as quickly as possible to be able to respond to this threat,” said Dr Nkengasong. (Africa CDC)

This was covered in The Lancet:

In February, 2020, while many other countries were still dismissing the emerging outbreak, the African Union acted swiftly, endorsing a joint continental strategy in conjunction with WHO. (The Lancet, May 30)

Note that the WHO did not order them to do anything, they simply reached out for support and got it. Most countries in Africa individually worked with the WHO, innovated in their own responses, and Africa got ahead. In truth, Africa is leading the world.

COVID Underdogs: Ghana
The best COVID-19 leadership in the world

Save The WHO

This is the reality of the WHO. For many of us, it’s the only help we’ve gotten. In Sri Lanka, the WHO and China have given the most support. When we most needed help, the US sent some overalls. When we suppressed the pandemic, the US rammed their diplomats through our airport without taking the required tests or quarantining. They really haven’t helped.

Their attacks on the WHO are even worse. They’re attacking the helpers. At a time when the WHO has most proven its worth, people are attacking it. Not just US leaders, the same talking points are laundered through well-meaning albeit ignorant commentators.

And here I’ll address the mask issue. The WHO was wrong about masks. They were also wrong about the power of border closures. It was a novel pandemic and they got some stuff wrong. They were wrong and it would have been better if they got it right.

And yet, most countries still somehow got it right. All the regions above instituted masking, independently. Because telling people exactly what to do is not what the WHO is. It’s not Captain Planet that saves the day. It just gives support. Smart countries took that support, made their own judgments and saved their people.

Could the WHO have done better? Of course. Does that make failed pandemic responses in dumb countries the WHO’s fault? No. It’s your fault.

Most of the world saved its own ass. The countries that didn’t are now running around looking for someone to blame. They’re blaming the WHO, but even if the WHO came down with stone tablets they wouldn’t listen. People in the UK have literally said that the WHO is for poor people. And guess what? It helped us. And we weren’t poor where we counted, because we saved lives.

The WHO has been vital in that fight, and it’s frankly infuriating seeing them attacked by arrogant fools, who couldn’t buy a brain cell with all the money in the world. Open your mind, open a map, and learn something. Stop attacking our WHO.