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WHO’s who

Oct 29,2017 - Last updated at Oct 29,2017

Last week, a situation arose that might have made good material for a comedy if it were not real and tragic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) selected a head of state (immaterial who it was because it is not an isolated case) to be its ambassador of goodwill in recognition of his services to healthcare in his country.

This unleashed a wave of protests because, as it turned out, he had not made any. 

It appears that during his long term in office, he steered his country from riches to rags, which impaired all public services. Hospitals, in particular, now lack even basic equipment, a fact which he acknowledges by travelling abroad three times a year for medical checkups and treatment.

Interestingly, NGOs were the first to raise the hue and cry. This shows the growing strength of civil society organisations in the Internet age.

In the past, strong letters of protest would have been sent to the agencies concerned, only to make their way to the dead records file. But today, the clamour was so loud that some governments, of Western, industrialised, countries as it happened, were embarrassed into declaring that this was not a suitable choice of goodwill ambassador.

Eventually, WHO withdrew the nomination.

Seriously, how was this person selected? Clearly no one had read his CV, so what about other goodwill ambassadors?

Is there not a vetting process? The choice of goodwill ambassador in this case was so misguided that there may be reason to suspect foul play.

But one should not make accusations without evidence to substantiate them, so, assuming no underhand dealings, one must conclude that WHO did a blunder, so big that it threatens to undermine its credibility.

In fact, this approach to image building using celebrities as goodwill ambassadors may be due for a revision.

In today’s Internet age, hero-worship is diminishing because people can see not only the beautiful image created by the star’s PR team, but also that idol’s failings and transgressions.

The cynical world today demands that the misdeeds of the famous and powerful be not glossed over.

Seriously, people today are not so motivated by dogma and slogans such as communism, socialism, capitalism, democracy and even the glory of the nation. People want good governance and they would be willing to compromise any grandiloquent slogans to achieve it.

So, perhaps WHO would help improve health services in the world if it led the international community in imposing a ban on medical tourism by government officials and their families while they hold office.

If these officials, as well as their nearest and dearest, were compelled to use their country’s health services, it is conceivable that they would work harder to upgrade these services to an acceptable level.

If this works, then perhaps government health officials may then be required to use public health services in their countries while they hold office.

Then, if this works, perhaps the world could go a step further by imposing similar regulations on education.

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