Muña frets over US decision to leave WHO

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Posted on Jul 09 2020

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Esther Muña, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s chief executive officer, is concerned about the United States’ decision to leave the World Health Organization, and how that will impact the CNMI, Guam, and the Micronesian region since they’re all under the U.S. flag.

“That’s sad news for us here, especially because of proximity of assistance when there’s a need for help. We pick up the phone [and] they come here. …It’s very quick because they know how critical response is. …So, it is a big impact for us in my opinion,” said Muña.

A WHO team was recently on Saipan, helping with the emergency medical team.

WHO also assisted the CNMI during since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, such sending personal protective equipment to the CNMI and working with the Pacific Island Health Officers Association in getting the GenXpert supplies for testing, which Muña said was “troublesome” from the U.S. side.

There are other nonprofit global organizations that work with WHO in providing assistance, such as PIHOA, United Nations Children›s Fund, etc., Muña said.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a continuing spike in domestic cases, the United States formally signified its intent to withdraw from WHO last July 6. News reports say this will be effective on June 6, 2021.

Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios echoed Muña, saying he hopes that CHCC will be able to “fill in the gaps,” should U.S. President Donald J. Trump not reverse his decision.

“I know [CHCC] works directly with [WHO], so hopefully things will change for the better. I’m sure that Esther is going to have to figure out where to fill in the gaps,” said Palacios.

This decision for the United States to withdraw from the WHO “puts the health of the U.S. at a deep risk,” according to a statement from the American Medical Association.

“The Trump administration’s official withdrawal from the World Health Organization puts the health of our country at grave risk. As the leading medical organization representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, we join in strong opposition to this decision, which is a major setback to science, public health, and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19,” the AMA statement said.

It added that WHO plays a leading role in protecting, supporting, and promoting public health in the United States and around the world.

“The agency has been on the frontlines of every global child health challenge over the last seven decades, successfully eradicating smallpox, vaccinating billions against measles, and cutting preventable child deaths by more than half since 1990. Withdrawing from the WHO puts these investments at risk and leaves the United States without a seat at the table—at a time when our leadership is most desperately needed.

“As our nation and the rest of the world face a global health pandemic, a worldwide coordinated response is more vital than ever. This dangerous withdrawal not only impacts the global response against COVID-19, but also undermines efforts to address other major public health threats. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Medical Association strongly oppose this short-sighted decision.

“We call on Congress to reject the administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution. Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back,” the statement added.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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