Tag Archives: information

World Health Organization: The Lost Genie

Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore US President, Donald Trump. Known for not mincing his words and rarely playing diplomatically, he recently tweeted that, Corona Virus is a very bad ‘gift’ from China to the World. 

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1266014911127306240?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1266014911127306240&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Findianexpress.com%2Farticle%2Fworld%2Fvery-bad-gift-from-china-trump-in-his-latest-rant-on-coronavirus-pandemic-6431932%2F

Whatever Trump says or does makes a difference. He has provisionally suspended the funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and accused the WHO of being Pro-China, mishandling the Corona Crisis. A few days back he wrote a letter to the Director-General of the WHO, threatening to exit the global organization. 

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

And now he has finally announced to end US’ relationship with the World Health Organization… 

It is evident in history that whenever any crisis emerges, it challenges all the previously existing structures, organizations, and institutions. A global crisis like COVID-19 is very much capable of either reducing our existing institutions as redundant or tagging them as completely outdated.

Donald Trump has put WHO in an embarrassing spotlight and while, we may or may not agree with him, we also cannot ignore a few basic analysis points.

WHO came into existence on 7th April 1948 and its identity centered around the global population’s health. WHO, as a global health body, should be held liable, accountable, and responsible for missteps regarding the current pandemic.

Covid-19 has threatened the very existence of humanity. The invisible attack has proved that the WHO is not adequate enough for serving Global Health.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, WHO failed to gather timely information with its epidemic surveillance system, and paradoxically praised China for its effort to contain the virus. 

China mislead the World, as well as the WHO, about COVID-19, many global reports clearly suggest. Whistleblowers were targeted by the Chinese government and human-to-human transmission was completely denied, initially. WHO should have kept a close eye on misinformation and disinformation surrounding COVID-19.

WHO is obligated to inform communities about their rights and obligations with respect to health. Undeniably, acting as ‘Information Intermediary’ is the most vital function of WHO.

If one goes on to analyze the WHO’s Constitution, Article 1, states the objective of WHO is the attainment of the highest possible health for all. Article 2, highlights various functions of WHO, which include taking all ‘Necessary Action’ required to attain the highest possible level of health. Note that, Article 2(q), says that it is the function of WHO to provide information, counsel, and assist in health-related fields. Article 2(r), says that WHO work will be to assist in developing an ‘Informed Opinion’ among all the people about any matter related to health. 

Generally, there are few distinguishing essentials that determine efficient governance by any international organization.

First, the one who leads the organization makes a significant difference. Without a proactive leader, an organization as paramount as WHO may remain inert and passive. This is especially true in WHO’s context, where Article 28(i), authorizes the Director-General of WHO to take all necessary steps to combat epidemics.

Second, what power does the organization has if any member State violates its guidelines or recommendation?

According to the WHO’s constitution, Article 63 mentions that each member shall communicate promptly to WHO on important laws, regulations, official reports, and statistics related to health. Article 64 says that each member shall provide statistical, epidemiological reports in a manner determined by the Health Assembly. And Article 65 points that each member State shall transmit on the request of the Board such additional information pertaining to health.

To ensure the credibility of any organization, it is most important that its guidelines are binding on member States. In case any member violates its mandate, then the organization should have the power to penalize it. 

Lastly, the organization’s source of funding should be transparent and autonomous. Independent sources of funding make a tremendous difference in the efficiency of any organization. Financial autonomy plays a very significant role in making any institution equitable, fair, neutral, and bold in taking decisions. But WHO lacks financial autonomy and transparency in its funding.

USA has been the biggest donor to WHO contributing almost 15 percent of its total Budget under Assessed Contribution, the amount each member State pays to WHO according to the GDP. Over time, the Assessed Contribution has declined and Voluntary Contributions have risen, which include funds from private organizations. This reliance on Voluntary Contributions should be reduced to contain transparency of funding.

One thing that is clear is that the WHO has a GREAT responsibility in global health scenarios. The saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility” but the saying holds true the other way around as well. At least some bare minimum power is needed to ensure the efficient working of any institution. If this great responsibility is not complemented with bold, autonomous decision-making power, then failure of such an institution shouldn’t be surprising at all. 

Priyanka Singh is an Economics Assistant Professor, Delhi University(India). 

Sujeet Singh is Political Science Assistant Professor, Delhi University(India).


Featured image by Thorkild Tylleskar and license here.

Image of Director-General by ITU Pictures from Geneva, Switzerland and license here.

Journey from Coerced Sterilization to Misinformation

The dialogue around health and healthcare systems has increased at similar rates to that of the pandemic. Fingers are pointed at the lack of ventilators, hospital beds, and testing kits. 

While it is easy to pick at the chipped paint, the flawed structural foundation becomes glaringly obvious when there is less paint to chip. Much like the horror one might feel seeing a panel of their home infested with termites, America’s structural integrity is threatened by its hegemonic narrative – its own version of termites. Exploration of government policies, in the past and present, is a necessary context for the receptiveness of diverse communities to information from government sources. 

A History of Racialized Care Breeds Distrust

Racism was not a singular one-dimensional vector but a pandemic, afflicting…communities at every level, regardless of what rung they occupied.- Ta-Nehisi Coates

History of racialized care has had an adverse effect on communities of color. Racialized care takes into account your race and subsequently, the healthcare you receive. African American, Latinx, Native American, and AAPI populations are disproportionately subjected to worse healthcare due to income, language barriers, lack of research, and implicit bias from healthcare professionals.

But above all, healthcare in the US is informed and shaped by an oppressive history. Disenfranchised communities have been given reason to be wary of a healthcare system that has been used as a conduit for injustice.

Virginia Hedrick, Executive Director of the California Consortium for Urban Indian Health and panelist at Ethnic Media Services April 17th briefing on the impact of Coronavirus on diverse communities, noted the distrust of the healthcare system by Native Americans and their unwillingness to believe in the protocols of the pandemic. And why wouldn’t they be skeptical, considering the “sterilization of Native [American] women existed up until 40 years ago”, Hedrick added.

So what were marginalized populations encountering up until 40 years ago? And perhaps even as recently as 10 years ago?

In the 1960s, President Lyndon B Johnson led the Great Society Project in an effort to eliminate poverty by increasing access to welfare and social services. The backlash came from physicians, white men, who took it upon themselves to lower the rates of people on welfare. No short of a God complex, they believed that by sterilizing women of color, they were helping society – limiting birth rates in low-income, minority families. 

Between the 1960s and 1970s, 25% of Native American Women were sterilized by the Indian Health Service; various government programs formed the Indian Health Service. IHS had found that the average Native American woman had 3.79 children to the white woman’s 1.79 children; within 10 years that number declined to 1.99 for the Native American woman. This was attributed to education and higher income but unwanted sterilization was erased from the historical narrative. In actuality, the decrease in births had to do with the use of coerced sterilization as a procedure to help a medical ailment even if it was unrelated or nonconsensual.

A map from a 1929 Swedish royal commission report.

Latin and African women were targeted starting in 1909 when states started adopting eugenics programs. 32 states rallied together to advance eugenics during which 60,000 people were sterilized. In the documentary, “No Mas Bebes”, a Mexican American woman speaks to the trauma of being sterilized while giving birth to her children. This story isn’t dissimilar to the story of sisters, Minnie Relf and Mary Alice, two mentally disabled African American women, whose mother tried to get them birth control shots and, unbeknownst to her, they were surgically sterilized. Relf vs. Weinberger, a landmark case, revealed that 150,000 poor women were coerced into sterilization under the threat of their welfare being taken away from them. 

Mental institutions and prisons became breeding grounds for such programs and even a law was passed allowing anyone committed to state institutions to be sterilized. Until as recently as 2010, there were cases of inhumane treatment in California prisons and it is reported that 150 Latina inmates had been inflicted with forced infertility

Eugenics was just the start of questionable activity by the US government. It progressed beyond sterilization when marginalized populations became lab rats for large-scale experiments. There are 40 documented studies done on incarcerated peoples and we have yet to know the number of undocumented studies; most studies hurt the recipients and yielded no results.

The US Public Health Service worked on a study with Tuskegee University to observe the natural history of untreated Syphilis for 6 months. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment ran from 1932 to 1972, lasting 40 years during which the patients were purposefully misinformed, misdiagnosed, untreated, and eventually, forgotten. 600 impoverished African American men, 399 with Syphilis and 201 without, joined with the promise of free healthcare; healthcare which was inaccessible to the black diaspora due to their race. Without informed consent, those with Syphilis were not told of their condition. Instead, they were led to believe they were being treated for “bad blood”. To make a bad situation worse, the free treatment the patients were receiving was no treatment at all. By 1947, penicillin was discovered as a cure but was not given to these patients for another 25 years. Not a single one of the patients consented to the experiment and many died without ever knowing their actual cause of death or that their death was preventable.

Racialized disparities in health factors in the omission of and lack of care given to minorities. Asian Americans were less likely to be asked about their lifestyle, mental health, and doctors did not understand their background and values. The same study, additionally mentioned that Asian Americans felt their doctors did not listen, spend as much time, or involve them in decisions about their care. Significantly, not much is documented about Asian American health until the 2000s. 

Lack of Access Presently

Genoveva Islas, Founder of Cultiva La Salud and panelist for EMS, is confronting the plight faced by the farmworkers in Fresno. Fresno has 1% of the farmland, provides 25% of the food we’re eating in California, yet the farmworkers don’t have personal protective equipment, health insurance, savings, or retirement funds. A majority of these farmworkers are left out of the CARES Act and their housing and food security are in question. “We need a just and fair immigration system”, Islas advocates, putting the spotlight not on the lack of healthcare, but on our immigration policies that leave immigrants and undocumented people at a disadvantage. She wants to ensure that the pandemic is not a time when those who are already being exploited are driven to the fringes of society without access to basic human rights. 

Distrust is the Seedling and Misinformation is the Byproduct

COVID19 has brought with it an onslaught of news, statistics, and warnings, both fake and real. Minority groups are struggling with effectively parsing and using this information given their inconsistent histories with the US government and healthcare systems. 

Virginia Hedrick reminds us that in Native American populations, the myth is that the Coronavirus “was here in December and that now, there is herd immunity.” Many within Native communities believe that homeopathic remedies have the ability to heal and protect someone from COVID19. 

Another reporter at the EMS video briefing expressed that African American populations are taking social distancing and Coronavirus information lightly. 

One only has to look as far as their WhatsApp groups to find confusing and misleading information and anti-Asian propaganda.

A doctor on the frontline at the University of California, San Francisco, and EMS panelist, Dr. Tung Nguyen, acts a buffer to inaccurate information:

People within your network may be struggling, sifting through information and misinformation (real and fake news) about COVID19. The onus is on our communities to understand that American history is rife with instances of disinformation and misinformation. Discerning what information is relevant requires collective work.

And right now, more than ever, action must be taken against an infodemic that is percolating through the pandemic. 

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.


Featured image is a poster for a 1971 rally against forced sterilization in San Francisco, CA designed by Rachael Romero. (Library of Congress)

This American Snapshot Costs $1.5 Trillion Dollars a Year

Census Day, when the United States takes its once-every-decade collective selfie, is April 1.

Those who don’t include themselves in the decennial snapshot will cost themselves and their communities thousands of dollars’ worth of government tax spending — $1.5 trillion annually nationwide (https://tinyurl.com/Census-drivenSpending) for the next 10 years, and other benefits too, with no chance to get added to the picture until 2030.

But Census Day isn’t the actual deadline for being included. It’s just the day listed on the census questionnaires (https://tinyurl.com/2020censusquestionnaire): “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”

For this question, include yourself, all the kids, all the relatives or friends who live there, and roommates.  Information given to the census will never be shared with landlords.

Until the corona virus hit, the actual deadline for filling out the census was July 31.  Now the Census Bureau has extended the deadline to August 15.

The nine-question questionnaires themselves are already available for people to answer online,

At the website https://my2020census.gov, and will remain available in a dozen different languages until the Aug. 15 deadline.  Many people have already received “invitations” in the mail to answer the census online, with an ID number customized for their address.

Whether you have an invitation or not, you can still go to that https://my2020census.gov website and fill out the questionnaire. 

The Census Bureau has also begun sending out print copies of  the questionnaire through the mail. 

People can also be counted by making a telephone call, to (844) 330-2020 if they speak English, or to one of 13 numbers, listed below, for other languages.  The call centers, however, are not fully staffed due to stay-at-home orders for the corona virus, so this method could involve longer wait times on the phone.

You can also wait for an “enumerator,” a Census  Bureau employee who will be dispatched starting in May to visit addresses that have not yet responded online, or by mail, or by phone.

Although the Census Bureau says it has offered jobs to 600,000 people – 100,000 more than it anticipated hiring – it is also delaying the “onboarding” process, which includes fingerprinting and background checks, for at least a couple of weeks due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The census requirement is included in the U.S. Constitution, and a national census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. Participation is required. 

From 1790 to 1820, Census Day was the first Monday of August. Then it was moved to early June until 1910, when it was moved to April 15.  In 1920, in an effort to avoid interfering with farm work, Census Day was Jan. 1.  But when that census showed how the country was becoming increasingly urbanized, Census Day was shifted to April 1, where it has remained ever since.

Census data is used to try to evenly distribute political representation in Congress.  Currently, every member of the 435-seat House of Representatives has about 750,000 constituents.

The data also helps businesses decide where to invest, helps state and local governments determine where new schools and roads are needed, and directs the federal government to where kids are living who qualify for Head Start, or need any of more than 100 other federally funded programs providing child care and development, education, nutrition, health care and much more.

The personal information the census collects – your name, address, age, race, the household phone number – is kept strictly confidential for 72 years.  The Census Bureau is forbidden to share that information with other government agencies, including police, the FBI, ICE, everybody.

California has invested more money than any other state in census outreach in an effort to ensure that all its people are counted this year.  The website CaliforniaCensus.gov can

Direct you to Questionnaire Assistance Centers and kiosks where you will be able to get some help filling out the forms if you need it.   

By May, if you haven’t filled out the census form, a census enumerator will come to your address.  There are several ways to make sure it’s really a census worker.  You can ask to see their official U.S. Census Bureau I.D. badge, which will have their name and photograph, along with an expiration date and a Department of Commerce watermark.

They will also be using a hand-held computer device and carrying a census bag. You can verify that they’re who they say they are by calling (800) 923-8282 to speak to a local representative.

Also, no census worker will ask about your citizenship status, or your social security number, or any banking information.  Nor will they ask for a payment or donation of any type. 

If you want help completing your census form, the Census Bureau has phone lines in 14 languages to provide that:

English (844) 330-2020

Spanish (844) 468-2020

Chinese (Mandarin) (844) 391-2020

Chinese (Cantonese)  (844) 398-2020

Vietnamese (844) 461-2020

Korean (844) 392-2020

Russian (844) 417-2020

Arabic (844) 416-2020

Tagalog (844) 478-2020

Polish (844) 479-2020

French (844) 494-2020

Haitian Creole (844) 477-2020

Portuguese (844) 474-2020

Japanese (844) 460-2020

The state of California is providing online assistance in the following languages: 

CQ Arabic: https://californiacensus.org/ar/

Armenian:  https://californiacensus.org/hy/

Khmer: https://californiacensusorg/km

Persian: https://californiacensus.org/fa/

Korean: https://californiacensus.org/ko/

Japanese: https://californiacensus.org/ja/

Punjabi: https://californiacensus.org/pa/

Russian: https://californiacensus.org/ru/

Chinese (simplified): https://californiacensus,org/zh-hans/

Chinese (traditional): https://californiacensus.org/zh-hant/

Tagalog: https://californiacensus.org/tg/

Vietnamese: https://californiacensus.org/vi/


Coverage for Census 2020 has been facilitated through a grant from the United Way Bay Area.

California Launches Website for COVID-19 Awareness

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the launch of a new Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public awareness campaign to provide useful information to Californians and inform them of actions they can take to further prevent the spread of the virus. The campaign is anchored by a new, consumer-friendly website, www.covid19.ca.gov, that highlights critical steps people can take to stay healthy and resources available to Californians impacted by the outbreak, including paid sick leave and unemployment assistance.

The campaign also includes public service announcements from Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer, and California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. These announcements will be distributed on various state websites, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram have provided the state with $1 million in advertising credits to help promote the campaign.

“The state is mobilizing at every level to proactively and aggressively protect the health and well-being of Californians, but we cannot fight this outbreak alone,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We need the participation and support of every Californian, and that’s why we’re providing recent, relevant and reliable information. Californians need to know how to stay healthy and where they can get help. These actions are critical, and there is no doubt our collective efforts will save lives.”

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA regarding general health.

The one-stop website reminds Californians that their actions can save lives. The website’s toolkit includes volunteer opportunities and public service announcements, social media messages, and additional videos that can be shared to help get the word out. The website also serves as the central location for up-to-date and simple guidance.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA regarding economic resources.


Featured image license can be found here.