Global Health Crisis and International Law- How nations are violating International rules and regulations?

Year 2020 also known as the ‘Pandemic Year’ of the 21st Century has taught us that global health issues are relevant for each and every human on this earth regardless of nationality. The Covid-19 situation has not only affected so called third world countries or developing countries but also most developed countries like USA, China (Wuhan is said to be the originator of Coronavirus).

As the world is still battling this pandemic situation which has not only affected human health and put billions of life at risk but it has equally affected economic and social aspect of nation and human life. It would not be wrong to say that the world is facing ‘Global health crisis’.

However there are some nations who are following international legal obligations when it comes to address this issue globally and to follow international protocol whereas there are some nations who are inspite of being signatories of  WHO] Global health law consortium and International Health Regulations are ignoring all the protocols and are acting independently in a tyranny manner. Even almost a after first COVID-19 case was reported back in December 2019 in Wuhan, yet under pressure from many countries who are members of WHO and country like USA who threatened to withdraw from primary membership of WHO, WHO has failed significantly in declaring  and admitting China accountable for initiation of the pandemic situation. Many international figures and eminent international health experts had expressed that China is not announcing true figures in terms of human loss caused due to COVID-19. China is acting sovereign and not in consortium with other UN, WHO signatories.  As per a research by  a association of 13 global health researchers hosted by the Global Strategy Lab (GSL) of York University , many countries are not fulfilling their international legal obligation during such health crisis.[1]

So what is it that most of the countries are doing wrong and how they are violating International Law?

The answer is ‘Most countries are not following rules and regulations as enshrined in Article 43 and 44 of International Health Regulations of which International Health Organisation is custodian. The signatories of International Health Organisation are permitted to exercise their sovereignity in case of global health emergency by taking additional health measures in accordance with their national law and obligations under International law  provided that such measures should not interfere International traffic and countries implementing additional health measures are under obligation to provide WHO scientific rationale including scientific evidence and state their reason for implementing them.[2] Some of the additional health measures are mentioned in Article 23(2).

Many countries are also not following international obligation as enumerated under Article 44 of the International Health Regulations which  states that ‘ States parties shall undertake to collaborate with each other in detecting and assessment of events, facilitation of technical cooperation and logistical support among other measures and WHO shall also collaborate with member States evaluating and assessment of public health capacities and mobilizing financial resources to support developing countries. [3]

In spite of International rules and regulations that are in existence for signatories members of WHO to follow, yet reality is that , International Organisation like UN,  WHO are unable to mandatory enforce their rules on members. Considering the present situation of pandemic which is a global health crisis, the member nations are not reporting exact figures of citizens of their countries who have contracted COVID-19 and how much of the fund given by the WHO is being spend to cure this disease like on developing vaccine in collaboration with private entities. The WHO is a frontrunner and a leading player in the COVAX program meaning that it is funding and developing vaccines with participating countries and once it is developed, only the participating countries will receive doses allocated by their population size. Now comes the problem, if only the participating nations will receive doses according to their population, then what about those nations who although are signatories of WHO but are not participant of COVAX program? Are they not equally entitiled to get vaccines for their own citizens. Take for example, Anti-COVID vaccines developed by Oxford Researchers in collaboration with AstraZeneca of Cambridge, UK which is approved by the UK Government on 3rd December,2020 for emergency use on vast scale for its citizens. Then what about those people living in Africa?  Are they not equally entitled for equal access of vaccine?

The present COVID-19 situation demands equal and efficient cooperation among all the nations irrespective of political ideologies because at the very core, it’s the human race who is suffering and lockdowns implemented around the world have already made it worse. Instead of fulfilling their legal obligations and cooperation towards each other, many countries are not involving in talks with each other to grant easy access to solutions to tackle COVID 19 situation. Russia had developed its own vaccine Sputnik vaccine, UK has developed vaccine which is deveopled in collaboration of Oxford and AstraZeneca Pfizer vaccine whereas USA researchers have come up with a vaccine version developed by Moderna  and another developed by Pfizer pharmaceutical company. India too is almost on the verge of sucessfully its own version of Covid19vaccines developing by Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech among others although India has yet to approve either of them for emergency use.

Although, few countries are have developed or are still developing anti-covid vaccines at rapid rate, the serious problem is that developed and rich nations are stockpiling vaccines at alarming rate. For example, India has made advance purchase of 1.6 billion doses of covid vaccine making it the biggest purchaser of covid vaccines followed by EU with 1.36 billion doses of advance purchase of covid vaccines and USA. Countries like Canada, UK, USA have purchased enough vaccines to cover their population and even more.

So, where does poor nations stand in terms of fair distribution of covid19 vaccines. Aren’t the few rich nations violating their legal obligations by not involving in equal access and distribution of covid 19 vaccine at a time when all countries must come together and act like one. it is the moral and legal duty of every member of World Health Organisation and signatories of International Health Regulations to involve in open dialogues by following International protocols to ensure that equal access prevails for human race on medical resources to tackle this global health crisis as it is the need of the hour.


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USA’s withdrawal from WHO and impact on rest of the world

On Friday, US President Donald Trump announced that he is terminating US membership in World Health Organisation as he was not satisfied with the way this international organisation is handling China’s response to Coronavirus. In a press briefing he reiterated his commitment “ to withdraw financial contribution to WHO and redirect that funds to other urgent global public health needs”. 

The USA is major financial contributor to WHO providing almost $450 million a year followed by China who contributed almost one-third to what America contributes and this may be one of the reason why Trump took such stern action against WHO for not taking any significant step towards China to address the ongoing pandemic situation. USA till now lost more than one lakh citizens due to COVID19 and the overall global death figure is even worse. Entire world has to come up a with a vaccine to counter this virus disease. Many fear that even though some countries are successful in flattening curve of infected cases, yet the worst isn’t over and it may very well play havoc with change in climate conditions. Countries like USA, UK, India etc. haven’t seen peak in number of cases even though number of infected people are increasing day by day. Another factor which could have played significant role in Trump’s decision is economic recession the world is facing include USA too who has to shut off its manufacturing and other economic activities for almost two months while during that time, China started its business and production sector at fast pace. So it comes natural that Trump has justified his reason of holding its fund to WHO and accusing of biased response towards China.

 Some political pundits and health experts views Trump’s decision as short-sighted and one which would eventually put US citizens health at risk. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Chairman of the Senate Health , Education, Labor and Pensions Committee expressed his opinion in a statement that ‘Withdrawing U.S. membership could interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines which US citizens and others in the world needs’[1].

European Union and many Asian countries have urged President Trump to reconsider his decision of withdrawal of US membership from WHO as it was the USA who was the founding member of WHO and such decision will deeply affect economic contribution, research and development in global health sector. Whatever the future holds, it is too early to say anything on how USA’s withdrawal from WHO is going to affect global health services. But one thing can be said for sure is that the objective of Trump’s decision to pressurize China in taking responsibility for this pandemic situation is not going to bear any result and with such withdrawal USA has given golden platter to China to play dominant role with WHO member states.


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