On WHO and effective health advocacy

 An article published in the New York Times of 6th January 2015 uses the Ebola crises ravaging parts of West Africa as a prism through which it views Dr Chan's leadership of the UN organ.

Dr Chan has been accused in some quarters of readily bowing to the demands of donor organisations, and also succumbing to the agenda of countries, at times at the expense of pressing global health concerns.

The WHO Secretary General has vigorously defended her record whilst in the case of the Ebola crises, admitted that she could have acted more aggressively to deal with the outbreak rather than rely on regional offices to handle, and also effectively communicate the seriousness of the emergency. 

Reservations expressed regarding Dr Chan however fits in quite nicely with what seems to be the overall ethos of an organisation which sees itself as 'being guided by member states to deliver on agenda that member states prioritise'.

The problem with this ethos is that as in the case of the Ebola crises, weak health systems mean a weak response to health emergencies, and a lack of coherence in communicating health priorities. What happens to these countries with weak health systems then?

For WHO and Its Secretary General to assiduously insist that the manner of working of the organisation is to be steered in the direction that member countries decide, is to set itself up to fail in its critical role as the world's chief health advocate.

WHO clearly has to provide a different kind of leadership. It has to be a leadership that effectively manages member country expectations in a manner that prioritises support- indeed advocacy for countries where weak health infrastructure severely hampers capacity to provide critically needed health care to these countries' citizenry. 

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