The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been receiving more brickbats than bouquets for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The UN health body finds itself caught in the crossfire between superpowers China and the US. China has called on the international community to increase political and financial support to the WHO, while the US has threatened to permanently freeze the flow of funds and pull out of the organisation if it fails to demonstrate its ‘independence’ from China in a month. Even as the number of coronavirus cases has crossed 50 lakh globally and the death toll is above 3.25 lakh, about 130 countries, including India, have endorsed a resolution to probe the origin of the virus and carry out an ‘impartial, independent and comprehensive’ evaluation of the global response to the Covid outbreak. A free and fair inquiry is needed to ascertain the truth and fix accountability for the crisis that has engulfed the world.
In a development particularly significant for India, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is set to take charge as the chairman of the WHO’s 34-member Executive Board. India, which has recorded more than 1 lakh Covid cases and over 3,000 deaths so far, is poised to play a bigger role on the world stage in dealing with the disease. The promptness in extending a helping hand to other countries by supplying medicines and medical equipment has earned New Delhi diplomatic goodwill. The new responsibility will test the country’s mettle as it strives to strengthen its healthcare infrastructure.
It will also be critical for India to hold its ground and steer clear of the US-China slanging match. Only the WHO has the wherewithal to spearhead the global fight against Covid-19. India has a chance to rise to the occasion by advising and assisting the world body in performing its operations efficiently and autonomously. The top priority should be to contain the virus unitedly, rising above geopolitical rivalries. It’s also vital to fast-track the probe so that course correction can be done and the world becomes better prepared to handle such pandemics.
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