A lot of questions have recently been raised about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) response to the COVID crisis. Particularly, many have wondered why the WHO took so long to declare a pandemic and why it strongly advised countries from banning travelers from China to prevent the spread of the virus.
We may now have an answer to those questions.
The WHO Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had the backing of China during his candidacy for director of the organization.
Additionally, Ghebreyesus was a prominent member of an Ethopian communist party and even served as a government official of the party.
Naturally, many people are not reacting well to this discovery.
Check out some of the reactions below:
The BBC reported earlier in March on the director's history:
Dr Tedros was born in 1965 in Asmara, which became Eritrea's capital after independence from Ethiopia in 1991, and grew up in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region.
One formative, and now motivating experience, was the death of a younger brother, who was around four years old at the time, he told Time magazine in November. Later, as a student, Dr Tedros came to suspect it was measles that killed him.
"I didn't accept it; I don't accept it even now," he was quoted as saying, adding that it was unfair that a child should die from a preventable disease just because he was born in the wrong place.
"All roads should lead to universal health coverage. I will not rest until we have met this," he told the World Health Assembly shortly before his election as WHO chief.
Dr Tedros became a member of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which was in the vanguard of the 1991 overthrow of Ethiopia's Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam.
As a government minister from 2005, he was seen as more approachable and friendly than some of his more austere TPLF comrades.
He has been praised for reforming the health sector and improving access to health care in Ethiopia, Africa's most populous state after Nigeria.
But when he was in charge, his ministry was known to discourage journalists from reporting about suspected cholera cases in the country.
During his highly efficient and ultimately successful campaign to lead the WHO, Dr Tedros' supporters dismissed allegations that he had covered up cholera outbreaks.
That is why "persuasive" and "political" are also words which crop up regularly when discussing his leadership of the WHO.
He knows that the WHO's success tackling global health crises depends on the co-operation of the organisation's 194 member states.
During the current Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, he has travelled there several times, not just to see the situation but to also talk to government leaders. And he moved quickly to visit Beijing when news of the coronavirus outbreak emerged.
"His strategy is to coax China to transparency and international co-operation rather than criticising the government," says Lawrence Gostin, Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University.
But has that actually worked?
Some WHO watchers have criticised the effusive praise heaped on China for its containment measures.
After his trip to Beijing, Dr Tedros said China had set "a new standard for outbreak control".
A few 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 arrested health workers who first 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 first to ask him to call a PHEIC," says Prof Gostin. "Having said that, it was only a short delay and I don't think the timing had any impact on the trajectory of Covid-19."
"I do worry quite a bit however that his effusive praise for China could in the long term tarnish the WHO's reputation as a trusted scientific authority willing to speak truth to power."
Just a few days ago, The New York Post published an opinion piece detailing the WHO director's involvement in the COVID outbreak:
Which brings us to the WHO’s malfeasance in this affair. The WHO should have known at the outset that it was dealing with a bad-faith actor in Beijing. Yet instead of immediately insisting upon access, openness and transparency from China, WHO leadership followed the Chinese lead and at times even took the Chinese line.
The very fact that truth-seekers are left counting urns is an indictment not only of the Beijing regime, but also of the WHO. To help stem the pandemic, the WHO should have been tirelessly pressing China to tell the truth.
Far from sounding an alarm, however, the UN outfit was impassive while Beijing stonewalled international health authorities for weeks. Indeed, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese regime for its “transparency” in the crisis. Tedros, recall, was Beijing’s candidate for WHO chief and owes his job to China’s campaign for him at the United Nations.