Fred Roeder and Bill Wirtz: Who Needs the WHO? Not the World’s Poor

The World Health Organization is a large and antiquated United Nations body that is expensive unnecessary and counterproductive to its own cause of “public health.” It’s time to take the appropriate measures and defund it.

The WHO and Ebola: an Illustration of Failure

As the Ebola crisis was ravaging a number of African countries in 2014, we put our trust into a number of international organizations to assist West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea or Nigeria to contain the spread of the virus and aid those who were unable to receive medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO), with its ambitious goal regarding public health, was one of them. According to itself, the “WHO aims to prevent Ebola outbreaks by maintaining surveillance for Ebola virus disease and supporting at-risk countries to developed preparedness plans.”

Over 2,500 people died from Ebola in Guinea, but rather than addressing the important health concerns, the WHO focused on cigarettes.

Experts in the field, however, beg to differ. As Reuters reported in 2015, a specialist panel convened by Harvard’s Global Health Institute (HGHI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) concluded that immense human suffering went “largely unchecked” by institutional responders.

It turned out that WHO officials were aware of the outbreak in spring, yet it took until August for the World Health Organization to declare it a public health emergency and take action. This is months after the broader public was already made aware of the problems with the epidemic.

The WHO, however, does have priorities—in the same year that WHO reports failed to mention the Ebola outbreak, the UN’s agency reported on the promotion of tobacco products. Even more striking is that the WHO’s concern wasn’t only that of tobacco marketing in Western European of Northern American areas but in the precise areas affected by Ebola. Here is a quote from that report:

In Guinea, attractive young women are hired by tobacco companies as marketing executives, but in reality serve as so-called “cigarette girls” whose duty is to promote cigarettes at nightclubs, in front of retail shops and in other public places.”

Over 2,500 people died from Ebola in Guinea, but rather than addressing the important health concerns of what could become a global epidemic, the WHO focused on cigarettes. Former WHO Director General Margaret Chan spoke at the sixth Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC COP6) in Moscow in 2014 (during the Ebola outbreak) and declared fighting smoking as the biggest priority for the WHO.

This is in line with the general priorities of this organization. The WHO has shifted its focus from communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), caused by fatty foods, smoking, or drinking. Unimpressed by the large-scale consequences of nation-wide epidemics, the WHO prefers to play a nanny and regulates people’s personal behavior. Is this what taxpayers expect to happen?

Stunning Waste of Taxpayers’ Money

The WHO’s travel expenses for one year are $200 million according to the Washington Post, which means that every single staffer racks up a total of $28,500 per year. Because surely, when you’re fighting smoking instead of Ebola, better do it in a business-class seat.

The WHO spent more for the travel of 7,000 staffers than it did for countering malaria, tuberculosis, fighting AIDS and hepatitis, and mental health.

For those thinking that the latter statement would go too far, let’s just take a look at the Coral Strand hotel on the Seychelles, which hosted international tobacco control experts from South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, and Liberia in order to learn about the Seychelles’s “comprehensive tobacco control laws” which, as you’ll find the government admitting, are only in the “process of being enforced.” At around $300 per night, the hotel offers nice rooms, including offsite water sports, badminton lawns, and an ocean deck bar for all the thirsty health experts.

In March of 2017, the Associated Press reported that the World Health Organization spent more for the travel of 7,000 staffers than it did for countering malaria, tuberculosis, fighting AIDS and hepatitis, and on tackling mental health and substance abuse. The agency is simultaneously demanding its budget be increased as it doesn’t seem to have enough money to fulfill its healthcare-providing role.

Adding to that, the reader of the current article, which has an increased likelihood of being an American taxpayer, is asked to contribute the largest part to the WHO’s over $4 billion budget.

Charity Does It Better

Compare this to Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), which is almost entirely funded privately and widely regarded as being more effective in the fight against Ebola through a large-scale operation involving many volunteers and researchers. MSF’s transportation costs are $195,000, which largely overshadows the $560,000 spent on Africa alone (adding $60,000 for the Americas, $4,800 for Oceania, $60,000 on Europe and $364,000 in Asia).

This performance is visible when it comes to operating costs.

In The Costs of Public Income Redistribution and Private Charity (Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 21, NO. 2 [Summer 2007]: 3–20), Joseph Rolph Edwards points towards the numerical evidence of the undeniable over-performance of private charity. He notes that government absorbs at least two-thirds of the money it raised, meaning that for an aid of $200 million, it would need to raise $600 million.

Assuming that private charities (and private family aid) deliver at least two-thirds of each dollar donated to them in aid, they would only need to raise $300 billion in order to deliver that $200 billion in aid. That is, raising only half as much money through voluntary donations, the private agencies (and families) could deliver the same amount as the government, saving, in the process, all the costs the government imposes on the public through the compulsory taxation.”

This estimate of at least two-thirds did not even include religious charities, who often lower their operating costs through the fact that they work on land that was donated to them.

It turns out that advocates of help for people in distress should turn to charities, not government. Organizations such as MSF show that the motivations of individuals who believe in their cause are far more effective than drowning resources in the ineffectiveness of bureaucracy.

In the debate around the necessity of certain international organizations, we should not look at pretended intentions, but the manifested results. As Milton Friedman rightfully said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Looking at the results of the WHO concludes one thing: it needs to go.

Fred Roeder

Fred Roeder

Fred Roeder is a Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center. He has been involved with healthcare reform in Eastern Europe and Canada and worked with the World Bank on healthcare modernization in the Southern Caucasus. Originally from Germany lives now in London.

Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is a Young Voices Advocate. His work has been featured in several outlets, including Newsweek, Rare, RealClear, CityAM, Le Monde and Le Figaro. He also works as a Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

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23 Responses to Fred Roeder and Bill Wirtz: Who Needs the WHO? Not the World’s Poor

  1. NB


  2. BoyfromTottenham

    It has been forgotten that prior to the introduction of government-funded social services in the U.K., there were many efficient low cost schools, universities, hospitals, pharmacies and unemployment and retirement schemes funded by charities, private benefactors, trades unions and employees. The ‘poor houses’ or debtors prisons are now universally portrayed as evil places, but they operated on the principle of providing food, delousing and a bath, clean clothes and a bed in exchange for half a day’s manual labour each day for those in debt or destitute. Debtors were no locked up, they could leave the ‘prison’ each day to work their trade or business and thereby repay their debts. Many of those affected were able to return to their previous lives after paying off their debts in this way. But you won’t find social ‘progressives’ talking about the positive aspects of these pre-socialist era institutions because they demonstrate that there is another, libertarian way to assist the sick and the poor that doesn’t involve government coercion and inefficient taxation of the masses to achieve some level of social ‘equality’. Of course many of these institutions rapidly disappeared when social welfare measures such as the NHS, government schools and pensions were introduced, generously funded by the taxpayer. Oh, and of course the government had to introduce the Income Tax to force everyone to pay for this ‘social welfare’, the rate of which has steadily risen ever since.

  3. nerblnob

    In the last year, from a base in provincial UK , I’ve travelled on business and pleasure to:

    Norway x3
    Germany X 3
    Austria X 2
    Russia – Moscow
    Russia – Siberia
    Russia – Sakhalin (separate trip, via Korea)
    Holland x2

    Australia – Perth
    Australia – Sydney and Melbourne

    South Africa

    And my total travel bill was around US$10,000.

    The most I ever ran up in one year was US$25,000

    How the Fük are these nongs averaging $28k+?

  4. nerblnob

    I’m not even counting the stopover days I spent in Seoul, KL, and Singapore but they’re included in the cost.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    Over 2,500 people died from Ebola in Guinea, but rather than addressing the important health concerns, the WHO focused on cigarettes.

    As I linked yesterday:

    UN health agency aims to wipe out trans fats worldwide (14 May)

    NEW YORK (AP) — The World Health Organization has released a plan to help countries wipe out artery-clogging trans fats from the global food supply in the next five years.

    “It’s a crisis level, and it’s major front in our fight now,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference in Geneva on Monday.

    There you go: malaria, de nada. Water borne diseases, meh. Antibiotic resistance, nah. The crisis is deadly deadly trans fats!

    Who will save us from WHO?

  6. Some History

    The World Health Organization, an agency of the unelected, unaccountable United Nations, has mangled its priorities. Its emphasis of late has become non-communicable diseases. As such the WHO unintelligentsia has become a collective of swivel-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth prohibitionists. For example, it’s [deranged] ideological quest for a “tobacco free” world demonstrated that the spittle-flicking Maggie Chan, then WHO Director-General, could have rivalled “fire and brimstone” preachers of the early-1900s.

    Former WHO Director General Margaret Chan spoke at the sixth Conference of the Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC COP6) in Moscow in 2014 (during the Ebola outbreak) and declared fighting smoking as the biggest priority for the WHO.

    For the WHO, anti-tobacco began way back in the late-1960s with its first World Conference on Smoking & Health. Since then the anti-tobacco Conference has been held every 4 years. Of late, the WHO has also introduced the Conference of the Parties (to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control). This, too, is held every 4 years. The Conference of the Parties and the World Conference on Tobacco or Health are interposed so that every 2 years one of these Conferences is on. And they’re all 5-star events courtesy of the taxpayer. The unelected, unaccountable frothing-at-the-mouth authoritarians have become accustomed to 5-star treatment – 5-star travel, 5-star accommodation, 5-star dining, 5-star sight-seeing. They’ve become nasty, sneering fat cats.

  7. Some History

    Re: The 2014 Conference of the Parties

    The unelected, unaccountable World Health Organization eggs on government to hike the tobacco excise by ever increasing amounts.

    Tobacco tax was at the top of the agenda. It was a secretive conference with the public and press barred from the proceedings. It also highlights the 5-star pampering to which the political class has become accustomed by making themselves subservient to unelected, unaccountable internationalist organizations such as the WHO. The planning and “strategies” of the self-installed elite living the high life on how to further rob their constituents back home is utterly perverse.

    The WHO’s secret tobacco tax
    “The U.N. health agency approves a new global levy after banning the press and public”
    “Moscow — After booting the public from its meetings on Monday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) tobacco control convention ramped up its assault on transparency on Tuesday when the press was also banned from the Moscow conference.”
    “All indications were that the global tobacco tax would not pass until Thursday or Friday, if at all. Without the public and the media there to watch, delegates ratified the tax almost immediately.
    When I and a handful of other accredited journalists, showed up for a Tuesday morning press briefing, we were told that the briefing was canceled and the press was no longer allowed to attend any convention events at all.
    The rest of the convention, which cost world taxpayers nearly $20 million, will now take place in secret, behind closed doors. It’s a chilling and disturbing attack on the freedom of the press — especially given the impact decisions made at the convention will have on people throughout the world.”
    “On Tuesday, when the journalists were banned, there was no meeting and no vote. Protocol was not followed — not that “properly” banning the media would be appropriate — it would just be a touch less despicable. The secretive nature of the press ban comes across as particularly sleazy and shocking.
    A security thug representing the convention secretariat said the decision to prohibit the press was made overnight by the delegates and the secretariat. That same secretariat pockets $403,000 a year courtesy of world taxpayers for the task of overseeing a convention that meets every two years.
    As I was escorted away from the convention area by two guards, I passed a German reporter being physically restrained from entering the room while being yelled at by WHO officials.”

  8. Some History

    Re: The 2014 Conference of the Parties

    ‘Broke’ WHO host £1.6million caviar-fuelled beano
    Oct 26, 2014

    “WITH two types of caviar, Champagne and an ocean of salmon, it’s a world away from Ebola ravaged West Africa”
    “Delegates from 175 countries descended on the conference in Moscow as part of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The body, funded by the WHO, met to discuss tobacco control policies and the role of e-cigarettes.
    Organisers of the Moscow conference spent more than £40,000 just to provide Wi-Fi access for attending journalists, wasted after a last-minute decision to ban all press from the event.
    Of the five hotels assigned to delegates, two boast five-stars including the Government-owned Golden Ring Hotel, self-proclaimed as “one of the most luxurious” in Moscow, and the city’s Crowne Plaza which commands a majestic £1,169-a-day for a suite, though the WHO has secured a small corporate discount.
    The Sunday Express can reveal the dinner gala, held last Monday, offered delegates Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce, Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish plate of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, eel mix; Smoked eel, and Salmon under white syrup with flying fish caviar.”

  9. Some History

    World Health Dictatorship Organization

  10. nerblnob

    I forgot to mention Brisbane and SW France.

    Still within the budget.

    I’ve seen these people, in Africa, in Syria 20+ years ago, zooming around in their white Land cruisers, trying to root each other at first world parties in this world countries, pushing wind and solar on people that need real electricity and pushing subsistence farming on people who want better than that .

    How anyone could think they’re the solution to anything is beyond me.

  11. Some History

    I simbly loved the Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, and Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce. [Buuurrpp] Toothpicks! Where are the toothpicks, garkon?!

    I’ll now have the Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish plate of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, and eel mix. I’ll also have 4 bottles of your best red wine….. and make it snappy!

  12. Some History

    And how will you be paying, sir?

    [Buuuurrrppp] I’ll be using the VISA Taxpayer Gold Express Card™.

  13. H B Bear

    Sitting in a first world hotel attending a conference beats sweating your arse off in a tent in a third world African shithole.

  14. Some History

    The World Health Organization is a large and antiquated United Nations body that is expensive unnecessary and counterproductive to its own cause of “public health.”

    These incessantly-moralizing, tyrannical nut cases have done much damage courtesy of “captured” government Health bureaucracies, “captured” greedy, useful-idiot politicians, “captured” media, “captured” academia, and a conga line of so-called health “charities”, e.g., cancer societies, heart foundations.

    Social isolation, loneliness are considered significant risks to health as acknowledged by the WHO in its stance on QWERTY:

    Gender refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – such as norms, roles and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed. While most people are born either male or female, they are taught appropriate norms and behaviours – including how they should interact with others of the same or opposite sex within households, communities and work places. When individuals or groups do not “fit” established gender norms they often face stigma, discriminatory practices or social exclusion – all of which adversely affect health. It is important to be sensitive to different identities that do not necessarily fit into binary male or female sex categories……

    Yet this same WHO has spear-headed a decades-long, global campaign to denormalize, stigmatize, “leperize”, socially exclude, and rob those who smoke. Through an incessant barrage of inflammatory propaganda – the ever presence of spite, vindictiveness, and malice – the WHO has reduced those who smoke to “vermin” status, peddled as “health” promotion.

    The WHO’s latest directive to nations is to hike tobacco taxes into the stratosphere. Australia and New Zealand, arguably having the most stupid politicians on earth, have taken up the directive. And, predictably, these eye-wateringly-high taxes have created a flourishing contraband market as consumers attempt to avoid being robbed blind by government that’s supposed to represent them. The perpetrators always disavow any responsibility for detrimental consequences. Rather than freezing/reversing tax hikes, the Australian government is looking to funding a nastier protection for its extortion racket. And it’s typically the poor that bear the brunt of this insane elitist activity.

    See comments here:

  15. Up The Workers!


    World Halfwits Organization.

    Kevin Rudd would make a good C.E.O.

  16. Some History

    And then there’s the influence of the mega-wealthy. See comments here:

    Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into anti-tobacco, much of it to the WHO. Bloomberg has been made a WHO Ambassador for Non-Communicable Diseases where he has red carpet access to politicians around the world to peddle the “lifestyle” crap. The UN has also made Bloomberg a Special Envoy for Climate Action.

  17. Terry

    Precisely, what are the long-term effects of tobacco on an ebola-ridden corpse?

    Perhaps we could fleece the taxpayers some more and ponder that important question over a glass of very expensive Champagne in Business Class.

    Gee, what a fine, noble and inherently compassionate human I am; making these sacrifices for those awful, poor people…

    …when are we bringing ‘Tar & Feathers’ back into fashion as a reasonable response to these ‘piss-takers’.

  18. duncanm

    As I pointed out a day or two ago, what do you expect when the organisation is run by an Ethopian Marxist, who’s party doesn’t mind dabbling in a bit of local terrorism.

  19. duncanm

    Oh – and that nutjob is the one who appointed Mugabe as goddwill ambassador.

    Forget the ABC, Rabz the UN first.

  20. Terry

    @ duncanm

    “Forget the ABC, Rabz the UN first.”

    I reckon we can chew gum and kick-ass at the same time…

  21. Mother Lode

    Precisely, what are the long-term effects of tobacco on an ebola-ridden corpse?

    It is like when they are calculating the ‘cost’ of smokers.

    Among their many sleights of hand they assume that a person who dies of what they deem a smoking related death has a medical cost associated with their final treatment, but that if they did not smoke there would have been no costs when they died of something else.

    No doubt, WHO has determined that if ebola sufferers who smoked had given up, they would not have died from ebola.

  22. Have we forgotten the millions upon millions who died of malaria because WHO banned DDT?
    Rachael Carson, mass murderer extraordinaire.

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