The Geopolitics of Public Health

Calls for reform of the WHO stretch back many years. A chapter authored by Adam Kamradt-Scott published in the aptly titled “Political Mistakes and Policy Failures in International Relations” describes several major blunders that led to the organization’s mismanagement of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. In the case of the former, the WHO wished to avoid the term “Mexican flu” and instead chose “swine flu,” a policy that unintentionally resulted in the mass culling of pigs and national bans on the import of pork products. In the case of the latter, the report notes that a separate Associated Press investigation found that the WHO delayed declaring the Ebola outbreak an international emergency because “it could have angered the countries involved, interfered with their mining interests or restricted the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca” – a clear indication of politics influencing its decision-making.

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