The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and its workers were warmly applauded by chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a video message Thursday, with the career Ethiopian bureaucrat specifically offering “holiday” rather than “Christmas” season greetings throughout.
Millions were making “heart-wrenching sacrifices” by staying away from loved ones, he said, while others will have a missing face at the family table.
He said vaccines, now beginning to be deployed in countries around the world, were starting to offer a way out of the crisis that has engulfed the planet this year.
“As 2020 draws to an end, a pandemic of historic proportions is preventing many of us from celebrating in the ways we would like,” Tedros said. “Instead, hundreds of millions of people are today making great, heart-wrenching sacrifices by staying apart to stay safe.
“But in doing so, they are giving the most precious gifts: the gifts of life and health.”
I wish everyone a safe and restful holiday season. This year by staying apart to stay safe from #COVID19, we can all give the most important gifts of all: the gifts of life and health. #InThisTogetherpic.twitter.com/HlNobGujwg
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) December 24, 2020
The coronavirus has killed at least 1.7 million people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, while another 78.7 million cases have been registered, according to sources compiled by AFP.
Since it was first detected and then began to spread, the W.H.O. has been constantly criticized for its slow reaction and deference to China.
As far back as March questions were being asked about the suitability of Tedros, a man with no medical background, as Breitbart News reported.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and House Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) were among the American critics of Tedros’ performance.
Cruz described the W.H.O. director’s conduct as “deeply troubling” in a Twitter statement that linked to an article describing how Tedros got the job with extensive assistance from the Chinese Communist Party:
It is deeply troubling @WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu is helping the Chinese Communist Party obfuscate the origins and trajectory of #COVID19, at the risk of health around the globe.https://t.co/gobeAmq7Pd
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 25, 2020
“The actions of the Chinese Communist Party exacerbated the public health crisis plaguing the international community, and instead of prioritizing global health, Dr. Tedros and the W.H.O. played favoritism to China,” said Rubio.
McCaul said W.H.O. is a victim of the CCP’s “shadow campaign to gain and wield influence at the United Nations.”
“Now, hundreds of thousands are sick, and thousands have died. That does not deserve accolades from the W.H.O. It deserves condemnation,” he said.
A petition demanding Tedros resign from his position was launched in March and by mid-April passed over one million signatures. Tedros ignored the call and simply carried on.
This was not the first time he has drawn public criticism in the role.
In October 2017, Tedros named former Zimbabwe tyrant Robert Mugabe a “goodwill ambassador” to help combat non-communicable diseases in Africa, provoking outrage from medical professionals and human rights groups. As the New York Times noted:
The role of good-will ambassador is largely symbolic, but rights groups were scathing in their reaction to the symbolism of giving it to a man whose leadership, they say, has led to the collapse of its health service and major rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Ultimately, Tedros rescinded his decision to name Mugabe “goodwill ambassador” in the wake of criticism.