Coronavirus (626) How did WHO do?

19 May, 2020

As the World Health Assembly starts today [18 May] in a virtual and abbreviated form, we know - from various national rumblings reported in the devvelopment press - that countries will be asking WHO some pointed queestions about how it should have handled the coronavirus. Here are a few we might ask as well:

1. HIFA focuses on healthcare information. Is there anything WHO could have done better in its communication effort regarding COVID-19?

2. Has WHO been providing the best information for dissemination in your country? Anything missing?

3. Has WHO had an impact in dealing with misinformation?

4. What do you think WHO could have done better with its healthcare information?

5. Is WHO too responsive to pressure from countries, or is it above politics? What can it do to avoid such pressure? (Note that countries always seem to want WHO to resist other countries’ pressure, but not their own)

Any comments?

Of course, the knives are being sharpened in many countries for national debates on the subject, once the emergency has receded. There are certainly countries whose performance has been surprisingly bad, with more cases and deaths than could be expected; where their politicians have appeared slow, vacillating, ignorant or plain wrong; where their health systems exhibited various degrees of unpreparedness - in terms of hospital beds, equipment, knowledge and skills; where their economic response has been misguided or ineffective; where their communication systems have spewed unchecked torrents of misinformation. But that national debate will probably have to wait. Now, it seems, it is time to roast WHO.


Chris Zielinski

Blogs: and

Research publications:

HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and