What a difficulty to be the head of the World Health Company (WHO) in the time of the coronavirus.
The entire world holding on your every word, dealing with daily press conferences at the headquarters in Geneva to detail an ever increasing number of cases in an ever increasing variety of countries.
This is the great deal of Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African head of the WHO, who took workplace two-and-a-half years ago guaranteeing to reform the organisation, and to deal with the health problems that eliminate millions each year: malaria, measles, childhood pneumonia, or HIV/Aids.
And yet, while the WHO is undoubtedly striving on those health problems, Dr Tedros’ time in workplace has been dominated initially by Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and now by Covid-19
Both have been stated Public Health Emergencies of International Concern, or PHEICs.
‘ Captivating and unassuming’
That implies they require 24- hour monitoring, release of medical staff, equipment and medicines, daily conversations with afflicted countries and nations who may be affected, and obviously, a stable stream of reputable details for an anxious world desperate for instant answers.
” Charming” and “simple” are some of the words those who know him use to describe the 55- year-old.
During the present Ebola break out in DR Congo, he has taken a trip there several times, not just to see the scenario however to also speak to federal government leaders. And he moved rapidly to visit Beijing when news of the coronavirus break out emerged.
” His method is to coax China to openness and international co-operation instead of criticising the government,” states Lawrence Gostin, Teacher of Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
But has that really worked?
Some WHO watchers have criticised the effusive appreciation loaded on China for its containment measures.
After his trip to Beijing, Dr Tedros stated China had actually set “a brand-new requirement for outbreak control”.
A couple of days later, he told world leaders meeting at the Munich Security Conference that China’s actions had “bought the world time”.
Such comments sit uneasily with the knowledge that China apprehended health employees who initially raised the alarm about the outbreak.
There is criticism too that Dr Tedros waited too long to declare a PHEIC.
” I was one of the very first to ask him to call a PHEIC,” says Prof Gostin. “Having said that, it was only a brief hold-up and I do not think the timing had any influence on the trajectory of Covid-19”
” I do stress quite a bit however that his effusive appreciation for China might in the long term tarnish the WHO’s reputation as a trusted scientific authority ready to speak fact to power.”
What do I require to know about the coronavirus?
- WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? An easy guide
- WAYS TO PREVENT CATCHING IT: How to wash your hands
- HOW TO SELF-ISOLATE: What you require to know
- WHERE ARE WE WITH A VACCINE? Progress so far
- A VISUAL GUIDE TO THE BREAK OUT: Virus maps and charts
So while Dr Tedros may be political, a lot of that political effort appears to be spent reassuring authoritarian, untransparent governments, in a bid to get them to deal with the WHO to tackle illness which threaten worldwide health.
When it concerns perceiving how that effort may be seen by governments in Western democracies, his political skills may not be quite so sharp.
Quickly after taking workplace he proposed Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president at the time, as a WHO goodwill ambassador, stating he had worked to make Zimbabwe “a nation that places universal health coverage and health promo at the centre of its policies”.
Only after days of outrage, not just from federal governments, but from human rights groups, who pointed to the deprivation that Mr Mugabe’s regime had caused on its individuals, did Dr Tedros decide to withdraw his proposition.
‘ Pitiful financing for WHO’
Now, in the midst of a worldwide outbreak of a brand name new infection, his judgement is being questioned again.
Some desire him to state a pandemic, others, including senior officials at the WHO, explain that it is just a word, and making the declaration would not alter the WHO’s method to contain the disease.
Then there are virologists and epidemiologists, a few of whom state the WHO’s recommendations to member states to embrace “robust, aggressive” containment measures is too weak, and others who say the WHO is over-reacting.
We have been here before. Dr Chan was criticised for a viewed overreaction to the 2010 swine flu break out, over which she stated a pandemic and advised countries to spend millions on medications most did not, in the end, requirement.
Then she was seen to react far too gradually to West Africa’s catastrophic Ebola outbreak, which claimed a minimum of 11,000 lives.
” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, is a phrase you often hear at WHO head offices.
Prof Gostin believes Dr Tedros has ended up being “the symbol of leadership” in the course of the coronavirus crisis. But, he cautions, the WHO’s “fundamental weak points are still there, consisting of pitiful financing”.
‘ See you tomorrow’
The success of Dr Tedros, and the WHO as a whole, at managing the coronavirus will not be actually clear till the crisis is over.
For now, he will continue encouraging nations to prepare, to identify, to trace, and to include.
Every day he gives a press conference, every day his words are flashed around the globe. And regardless of the pressure to come up with answers, in spite of the consistent media spotlight, he stays peaceful and friendly.
The end of each interview is always the exact same; an event of papers, a smile, and “see you tomorrow”.