WHO is a 'treasure', says Special Envoy as Cameron claims it failed during pandemic

5 November 2020, 08:45 | Updated: 5 November 2020, 08:46

By Fiona Jones

"Don't discard WHO, it's a treasure," says Special Envoy Dr David Nabarro, after former Prime Minister David Cameron said the organisation did not warn the world earlier of the pandemic and should be replaced by an independent system.

The World Health Organisation failed to warn the world about coronavirus earlier because it is “riven with politics,” David Cameron claimed, backing calls for an independent global system to warn of future pandemics,

Special Envoy for the WHO Dr David Nabarro told LBC, "The World Health Organisation works through a treaty that's been set up by different Governments when dealing with infectious diseases, and the treaty sets the limits of what the organisation can do."

He added, however, that the proposed changes for the WHO that Mr Cameron laid out in his article "made quite a lot of sense."

Nick asked Dr Nabarro how he thought the health body had served during the coronavirus crisis.

"I think the fact that this pandemic is so terrible and has caused so much death and misery...of course we all have to be called to account," he said, "questions have to be asked: how does this happen? Why wasn't it prevented when we knew these kinds of risks are all over the place? And why wasn't the response more satisfactory.

"So yes, I want inquiries, I want all of us to be held to account and I'm ready for it."

Dr Nabarro reminded Nick that these health bodies "operate in the space that's given to them by Government" so they "don't do as well as we'd ideally like them to as they don't have the room to manoeuvre."

He used the example of Mr Cameron's proposal that an independent body could enter a country when there is a breakout of an infectious disease to attempt to diagnose and quell it - but these are "not the rules" the WHO are under.

Nick asked Dr Nabarro what he would have done differently if he was Director General of the WHO, instead of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"I would be doing exactly what he's doing, he's held the line, that guy, since this was first announced at the end of January. He's not wavered, I think some of the countries have found it harder to work out what to do," Dr Nabarro said.

"All I'm going to ask everybody to do is don't discard the World Health Organisation, it's a treasure."