Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov.

The WHO Didn’t Fail. America Did

America never showed up

Indi Samarajiva
Jul 2 · 3 min read
Image for post

The WHO is under attack. From America, and Americans. The tone is different, but the argument is exactly the same. The WHO has failed. This just isn’t true.

America has failed, just look at them. During the greatest public health crisis in a century, America didn’t even show up. Forget global leadership, they couldn’t even protect their own people. When America did show up they were drinking bleach, screaming about the stock market, and spreading lies.

America is supposed to be a partner in the WHO, they’re supposed to help. Instead, they’re attacking the helpers.

But what about China?

What about China? China has suppressed its epidemic and exported aid around the world. By any objective measure, China has shown global leadership (on COVID-19, free the Uyghur).

Could China have acted sooner? Absolutely, but countries like Taiwan and Korea kept their own counsel and acted early. Why is America, a global superpower, blaming China for not sending their illiterate President a memo? Taiwan and Korea named their health institutions after the American one.

Where was the American CDC? China was late, but at least they showed up. America is still AWOL.

Why didn’t the WHO push China?

With what army? The WHO has a budget less than some Chinese hospitals. The WHO is an international institution, not a paramilitary, it has to work with its partners on the basis of trust. Those partners need to hold each other to account, they’re not your nanny. You cannot blame the WHO because America did not show.

America should have pushed the China in January. Because America has an Army, a Navy, and a CDC. The failure to push China is not on the WHO. It’s on America.

America, you’re the baddies

Asking why the WHO didn’t stop China is like asking why your doctor didn’t stop your divorce. How is a health organization supposed to intervene in a great power conflict?

What was the WHO supposed to do, stage coups in China and America? Go rogue? Tell these sovereign powers what to do? How? The whole institution was based on the idea that states like America would not go completely insane, which they did. Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not Captain Planet.

Commentators like Zeynep Tufecki who point to the WHO’s failures are so deep in American propaganda that they cannot see. Writers like her simply cannot see poor, colored people that depended on the WHO and somehow survived. But we did.

Just look at a map.

Image for post

Let me be clear. If the WHO had failed, we would be dead. Perhaps they warned people late, and they were late on masks, but they gave us early enough warning, they gave us test kits, and — most importantly — they’ve been working with us for decades to build up our own capacity.

So we made our own decisions. We masked, we closed borders, we did what we had to do, with WHO support. We didn’t blame anyone. We saved our own asses. And you know how else helped us? China.

Simply pointing to China as a bad actor is just playing into decades of American propaganda, which no longer makes any sense since America has a mad king who has completely left the stage. Yes, there is a great power conflict over Taiwan, but maybe open your eyes and see black and brown bodies that survived. We did it with the people that Americans blame.

The fact is that even with China’s delays, by the time they locked down an entire province in late January, it was pretty damn clear that something was seriously wrong. Nobody even needed the WHO to say anything, you could see the problem from space.

America continued denying the threat and has continued denying all the way into July. How can you blame the WHO for this? How can you even blame China?

The question America must now ask itself is, ‘are we the baddies?’

YES. YES, YOU ARE.

Stop blaming the WHO. The WHO helped. The WHO didn’t fail the world. America failed us all.

indica

Views from the global south

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store