How misconduct and corruption within WHO contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic

On April 14, President Trump put a halt to World Health Organization funding amid the organization’s poor response and alleged spread of misinformation of the novel coronavirus. This move soon draws both domestic and international criticism. Former NYC mayor, 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg describes this move as “a dangerous, short-sighted and politically motivated decision, with potential public health consequences for all countries in the world…” Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also commented  on Twitter, “the world needs the WHO now more than ever.”


Is the World Health Organization as corrupt as it’s described by President Trump? 

Look at the Fact:
WHO’s lavish expenses on luxury travel

“[WHO] routinely has spent about $200 million a year on travel expenses, more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health, including AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.”


The Associated Press also cited instances where the agency’s employees and top officials stay in five-star luxury hotels and travel in business class or higher without a warrant.

Analysis & Dissenting Opinion
The Washington Post on WHO’s travel expenses: “That’s Actually Okay

  • WHO is a “chief normative and convening authority in global health” that requires its staff to travel more often than usual to attend necessary meetings from all over the world.

  • WHO needs to know what’s going on in the world. Without travel, WHO will not be able to know what’s going on on the ground and make recommendations and deploy public health strategies

  • It’s understandable that WHO is spending a large amount of its budget on travel due to its nature. Plus, bureaucracy exists in all organizations big or small as long as it’s reasonable and controlled

Is the WHO’s Travel Expense Normal? 
Is WHO’s huge travel expenses normal due to its nature as a global health agency? Is WHO’s bureaucracy normal compared to other organizations? Let’s compare and contrast.

World Health Organization
7000 staff | spends $200 million on travel a year

Doctor Without Borders
37,000 Aid Workers | spends $43 million on travel a year

UNICEF (Children's Fund)
13,000 staff | spends $140 million on travel in 2016

It is ironic since WHO serves some of the poorest nations in the world yet their staff enjoys traveling in luxury. Traveling with first-class flights to “help with health crisis” in developing countries cannot be justified in any means. It is more than reasonable that the WHO spends more on travel than fighting major diseases around the world especially compared to travel spendings from other international organizations. It’s quite obvious that there is significant corruption within the WHO.

Look at the Fact:

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Corrupt Leadership

WHO Director-General Tedro allegedly covered up three cholera outbreaks occurring in 2006, 2009, and 2011 when he served as Ethiopia’s health minister. The Ethiopian government did not keep official records about the outbreaks nor did the authority take action to slow the spread. The authority claims that the outbreaks were only “acute watery diarrhea” in remote areas where laboratory testing “is difficult.” 

“Unnamed Ethiopian officials were pressuring aid agencies to avoid using the word “cholera” and not to report the number of people affected.”

The New York Times

However, cholera bacteria was confirmed in neighboring countries and was believed to be circulating in Ethiopia’s neighboring region according to The New York Times.

Employee Cover-up of Corruption

The Associated Press reported another instance where UN investigators were ambushed by armed Houthi rebels at Sanaa’s airport in Yemen as they were ready to depart with evidence of WHO corruption in Yemen.

The stunned investigators were left unharmed, but flew out without the telltale devices.

The Associated Press

This devious”ambush” was devised by a WHO staff who works at its Yemen office. He colluded with armed Houthi rebels to interfere with justice and cover up their corruption.

How effective will a corrupt bureaucratic organization be when it comes to global health? Though it is true that by its nature, WHO staffers are required to travel and attend international conferences, committee meetings, and panel discussions with other health experts and government representatives, how productive are they? President Trump describes the WHO as a “club of people to talk and have fun.” To some degree, it may be a very accurate depiction of the WHO. It is especially evident that the WHO failed to respond effectively as the world was hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

WHO’s Response to COVID-19

On January 14, 2020, the WHO announced on twitter that there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus. However, a journal published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that human-to-human transmission has already occurred back in mid-December, 2019.

The World Health Organization also ignored warnings from Taiwan back in December about the possibility that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted between humans. To this day, the WHO still rejects Taiwan to participate and join the organization in any shape or form due to China’s pressure over the “one-China” policy. WHO’s decision to prioritize politics over public health posed a significant risk to global health.

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With that being said, is “defunding” the WHO the right decision in the middle of a pandemic? Are there other alternatives in the future if WHO failed to reform?

Jack's take on the issue

Even though WHO should be held accountable for its action, halting fundings to WHO in the midst of a pandemic does not offer a positive message to the rest of the world. On the other hand, it’s uncertain when this pandemic will be over. It is better to do so now and force WHO to reform as soon as possible. 

The WHO is mostly funded by wealth from the United States. Contribution from the U.S. government accounts for about 15% followed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is important for other major economies such as China and Russia to increase their contribution.

Rather than donating to a complicated, bureaucratic World Health Organization, consider donating to local NGOs working in Africa and other developing nations where they deal with issues most effectively. It is important to give to an accountable organization that will best use the donation than a well-known beaucracracy. This is an advice for public figures and philanthropists looking to make donations on public health. It is also a call to action for everyone to start a fundraiser and donate to where it will be put into great use!

What is your take on the corruption of the World Health Organization?
Leave a comment below!

Published on April 22, 2020 at 5:37 PM EST

6 thoughts on “How misconduct and corruption within WHO contributed to the COVID-19 pandemic”

  1. I appreciate this straightforward and commonsense reporting. Performance by the WHO this year has been much more about politics than health. The politics behind COVID is obvious – variable and ineffective guidance, fudged numbers of cases (why pay a hospital to record a death as COVID when there is no evidence?), PCR tests run to CT 45, which all but ensures a false positive – it all leads to fear-mongering and control.

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