By Dr Javed Jamil*
The Covid-19 outbreak, which has almost totally paralysed normal life on the planet, has brought to the fore the widely ignored fact that the world health management system has failed to advance the cause of a socioeconomic and political system that safeguards rather than endangers life and healthiness of life. More than a million have already been affected with tens of thousands of deaths and the counts are geometrically multiplying with every minute.
The current lockdowns, safe distancing and curfews across the world have shown that the restrictions are an important part of the protection and if long terms protection against diseases is required, permanent restrictions too will have to be put in place on many activities and practices.
But the truth is that, in the name of the freedom, especially the “freedom of choice”, all such practices are being allowed, even glorified and globalised, that pose serious threats to life and healthiness of life. Certainly, there are many diseases that have now become treatable or preventable, namely, the infectious diseases like Tuberculosis, Cholera, Leprosy, Meningitis, Smallpox, Measles, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria and Pertussis, to name a few.
But the economic fundamentalism has largely undone the great work done by medical scientists by promoting a social ambience that makes them susceptible to a large number of ailments—Lung and heart diseases, Cancers, especially of lung, liver, mouth and breast, sex related diseases, and above all the rise of new deadly viral epidemics and pandemics.
Instead of developing a health-protective social system, the market forces have glorified and commercialised everything that poses severe threats to life and health. It is indeed difficult to infer if man today actually faces less or more threat to his health than in the past. Whatever increase in the average age has been noticed in the last few decades, it is chiefly due to reduced Infant Mortality Rate. This reduction is counterbalanced by the high rate of feticide; more children are killed every year by way of abortion than are saved by vaccines and antibiotics. Take abortions in consideration and the average age will nosedive.
The World Health Organisation or WHO was created in 1948. With over 190 Member States, it is the leading agency in international health. The stated goal of the WHO is “to foster the attainment by all peoples – especially the poor and most vulnerable – of the highest possible standards of health. The guiding principles of WHO are that “We can’t do it alone, so we work in partnership with others” and that “We can’t do it all at once so we set priorities”.
Priority setting, it is argued, helps “to focus the world’s attention, resources and actions on innovative and cost-effective public health action with specific goals and measurable results.” WHO is described by many as “the health conscience of the world”.
But if we examine the role of the World Health Organisation, we will have to conclude that it has failed abysmally in its role as the saviour of the world and in attaining the “highest possible standards of health”:
- It has failed to put Health in the driver’s seat in the world affairs. Despite huge scientific and technological development, health continues to suffer. Developments continue to take place at the cost of health. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- It has failed to set health free from the clutches of the forces of economic fundamentalism. With the growth of market economics and its globalisation, it has become mere pawn in the hands of market forces. The economic fundamentalists are able to influence in a big way the decisions of the WHO. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- Under the impact of the economic fundamentalism, it has failed to lead a noticeable campaign against the items and practices that severely endanger health. In fact, all these practices are being commercialised in a big way, and the WHO has hardly shown any concern towards their sordid commercialisation. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- It has failed to take an equitable stand in the matters of health with the result that the weak and poor countries and the weak and poor within the countries continue to face mortality and morbidity without a tear being shed for them. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- With the interests of the market forces including those of the Pharmaceuticals, it is the prevention through artificial means rather than avoidance of unhealthy practices that has received all the attention. While there is no big campaign against drinking, gambling, promiscuity, prostitution, homosexuality and smoking, there is a huge emphasis on vaccines and the use of market products like lotions, pastes and condoms. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- Not only there is no campaign against unhealthy practices, prevention though vaccines, etc., too receives attention only where there are no treatments available to the diseases. For example, polio eradication programme received huge attention despite the fact that it causes very little mortality and morbidity compared to Tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases because there is no treatment available in the market for Polio. The market forces are not interested in the eradication of malaria and Tuberculosis through intensive anti-mosquito and anti-Tuberculosis campaigns, as they are more interested in selling the medicines they have for these diseases. General hygiene has received much less attention. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- The WHO has fully failed to recognise the importance of family in health, and has failed to prevent the disintegration of family system, which is going on with a brisk space. Wherever the truck of globalisation roars, it signals doom for the family system. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- The WHO has also failed to develop any strategy of developing a health-protective and health-promoting social system. There is hardly any system in place that can guarantee health of the individuals. Social system has failed to create an environment conducive for a healthy life, and has instead promoted a system that increases mortality and morbidity due to suicides, crimes, rapes, unhealthy sexual behaviour, gambling, betting and other societal tensions emanating from poverty, economic exploitation and stresses of various kinds. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- The WHO has completely failed to influence the direction of social development, which is moving in the direction opposite to what health likes to pursue. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
- It has also failed to force the international community in preventing the damages to the environment and has done too little and too late to reverse the damage. (Where are the highest standards of health?)
“We can’t do it alone, so we work in partnership with others” too has produced a kind of partnership between the WHO and the other international institutions where economy and not health remains the guiding force. The WHO has failed to act as the leader. The hierarchy of the WHO seems to have succumbed to the academic environment generated by the forces of economics, which does not speak a word about the machinations of the forces that rule the world.
The WHO does not simply have the guts to bring health into leadership role. The WHO is only busy in managing the threats generated by the current international World Order and to help it in strengthening its grip on mankind. The policymakers are in coma, and only an intensive therapy can now bring them back to consciousness. Hard words. But hard words need to be spoken to bring them out of coma.
The result of the defective, deficient and lacklustre approach adopted by the WHO and other organisations has been that
- The avoidable infections continue to kill people in large numbers,
- New infections continue to emerge and become devastating killers and
- The diseases due to lifestyle, commercialisation of certain practices and disintegration of the family system continue to increase.
Let us examine the following facts:
* The following is the list of major infectious diseases and the number of people they annually kill:
* More than 1 million people are murdered every year. (More than 240 million people lost lives in wars in the last century.)
* More than 2 million people commit suicides.
* More than 2.5 million people die of sex related diseases; (more than 20 million have died of AIDS in recent years).
* More than 2.5 million die of alcohol related problems.
* More than 5 million die of smoking related problems.
* More than 50 million children are not allowed to take birth and are aborted.
* More than a hundred million suffer from alcohol related illnesses.
* More than 2000 millions smoke.
* Hundreds of millions indulge in gambling. 500 million are now using Internet alone for gambling. (In US alone, 20 millions show some signs of gambling addiction and 2 million divorces had gambling as a significant factor.)
* More than 100 million suffer from sex transmitted diseases (42 million from HIV/AIDS).
* Tens of millions of women are in prostitution and other sex related businesses; (more than one million Americans alone have served as prostitutes).
* More than 1.2 million of children are exploited annually in prostitution and other sex trades.
* More than 800 million watch pornography.
* Millions of homes are broken every year.
* Millions of women are raped every year; in many Western countries one tenth to half of all women have been raped. (The total number of women who have been raped at least once is in hundreds of millions).
* Sexual abuse of children is on the rise all over the world; in many countries up to one third of all people have been sexually abused in their childhood.
* Drug addiction is also persistent; tens of millions of people are addicted of harmful drugs.
Corona Virus diseases has also highlighted the fact that the major viral killers (Swine Flu, HIV, HPV, Rabies, Hepatitis B) in last 100-120 years have been associated with pig farming, farming of wild animal meats, dogs, sexual practices like prostitution, promiscuity and homosexuality and most of these diseases have a connection with alcohol.
The above statistics point to the fact that the whole health and life saving structure of the world has crumbled, and the blame primarily goes on the leading agency, the WHO. How come that despite the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people due to alcohol, smoking, gambling, sexual malpractices, other changes in lifestyle and social norms and malnutrition, the WHO has not taken an initiative to eradicate these problems altogether?
These practices are killing hundreds of times the number of the people killed by terrorism, yet nothing is being done to counter this menace. The truth is that the WHO has been: first, criminally ignoring what the corporate world and the other forces are doing at the cost of the life and well-being of humans; second, trying their best to manage the adverse effects of their policies on health; and third, helping them in turning health itself into a huge industry.
In short, the WHO has merely become another tool of the globalisation. The industries that can rightly be termed as Medically Hazardous Industries have a global business of trillions of dollars Global Burden of Diseases and the economics of problems and solutions point to the fact that a big chunk of the global burden is on account of the policies of the current forces of New World Order, which aim to monopolise wealth through all possible means including commercialisation of human susceptibilities even at massive cost to the wellbeing of the mankind.
Has the WHO guts to declare these as such and campaign for their discontinuation? If it does not have the will and guts to adopt the dynamic approach towards preserving health and campaign aggressively to make the global systems health protective, it does not have the right to claim itself as the Health Conscience of the World.
The WHO should ask itself: Is it doing enough to attain the highest standards of health? The Corona Epidemic provides it an opportunity to take the corrective steps. But it is highly unlikely that it can or will do anything that angers the global forces of economics.
*Thinker, physician, poet, writer, author of “Economics First or Health First?”, “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Killer Sex”. “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”, currently chair, in Yenepoya (deemed to be) University, Mangalore, Karnataka
This article has been distributed by Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre (PMARC) – Dalits Media Watch