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‘Vital we start now’: WHO reforms should not be left until after Covid-19 pandemic, says German health minister

The German government has called for immediate reforms to the World Health Organization (WHO), with Health Minister Jens Spahn stressing the importance of starting the process now and not wait until the pandemic has passed.

The UN health agency should be faster in its response to crises, Spahn added, calling for the WHO’s members to give it more funding and for them to be better at sharing information.

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© Reuters /Pascal Rossignol
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Spahn’s call for transparency comes after China was criticized for reportedly withholding vital information from the WHO during the early days of the pandemic, including the coronavirus genome, which scientists allegedly sat on for over a week once they had discovered it, according to the AP press agency.  

US President Donald Trump was among the more vocal critics of both China and the WHO, with Washington later announcing its withdrawal from the organization, which a US spokesperson said had “failed badly.”

Speaking during a news conference after a meeting of EU health ministers on Friday, Spahn said: “I don’t think there is anything to be said for the idea that we will wait until the pandemic is over, and only then set a process in motion.”

“The current pandemic challenges us very acutely … but it is very important that the reform debate is held in parallel.”

An internal document circulating among diplomats discussing reforms seen by Reuters said that the UN agency’s budget was $5 billion every two years, equaling the “funding of a larger sub-regional hospital” – a figure that was deemed insufficient to carry out its mandate.

A line from the document read: “Not only during the current pandemic, it has become clear that the WHO partly lacks the abilities to fulfil this mandate.”

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