Suspending WHO funding should be just the beginning

Dr. Tedros’ leadership was cause for concern from the start. He continues to assert to this day that three separate outbreaks of cholera in Ethiopia under his watch were not cholera at all, but simply “acute watery diarrhea.” His active complicity in covering up not one, not two, but three separate outbreaks of an extremely dangerous notifiable disease raises enormous questions about his fitness as leader of an organization whose primary job is disease surveillance. In service to an authoritarian government in Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros buried the truth about cholera in Ethiopia, and in the process probably buried many of his countrymen and their children.

It gets worse. Cholera outbreaks in the region began in Sudan. Ethiopia asserted that it was no problem, and so extra precautions were not taken. But after Dr. Tedros headed to the WHO, cholera appeared in Somalia, apparently having “hopped over” neighboring Ethiopia. It has since spread, with incredibly lethal consequences, to Yemen. Today, Ethiopia has finally acknowledged the presence of cholera. But it’s too late: Thousands are dead in part because of Dr. Tedros’ coverup.

You might think this terrible behavior would be strange in a WHO director-general: but far from it. The WHO continues to assert that fewer than 10,000 people died in the 2010s Haiti cholera outbreak, an outbreak caused by infected U.N. peacekeeping forces. Yet, yet detailed research from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has shown that true deaths may have been anywhere from three to 15 times as high. The previous WHO director-general, representing China, called North Korea’s health care system “something other countries would envy” and, in a country in the throes of starvation, lauded North Koreans’ lack of obesity.Meanwhile, Chan also widely promoted the idea that the 2009 flu season would be a massive global pandemic: a claim that failed to come true, with 2009 flu deaths in many countries coming in lower than either the year before or after. One wonders if this panicky reaction was motivated by the fact that early reports wrongly suggested that swine flu began in the United States (it began in Mexico).