The extraterritorial net of the spin meisters of the Israeli government in discrediting respected global institutions and NGOs, especially those involved in delivering life-saving medical relief to the devastated Palestinian enclave of Gaza subject, of course, to the necessary circumstances and permissions, continues unabated.
Perhaps it is an act of desperation or the psychological warfare tactic in pre-empting the fallout from anticipated bad news and optics through a narrative of denial, discreditation and damage limitation, in the wake of the interim ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague last Friday, that “the State of Israel should immediately implement a set of provisional measures to prevent any further acts of genocide in Gaza, to desist from such acts, and to take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence relating to acts of genocide.”
The ruling also requires Israel to allow basic services and humanitarian assistance to Gaza and to submit a report within a month on all measures taken to give effect to the ICJ order within one month.
One such institution gratuitously targeted by the Israeli government was the World Health Organization whose executive board was meeting concurrently in Geneva. The ICJ ruling had just hit the headlines when Israel’s representative on the board was accusing the widely respected WHO of “collusion” with Palestinian militant group Hamas, prompting a robust riposte from WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“WHO refutes Israel’s accusation at the Executive Board meeting yesterday,” said the genteel Ethiopian head of the world body, that WHO is in “collusion” with Hamas and is “turning a blind eye” to the suffering of hostages being held in Gaza.
“Such false claims are harmful and can endanger our staff who are risking their lives to serve the vulnerable.
As a United Nations agency, WHO is impartial and is working for the health and well-being of all people.”
The above developments also coincided over the past week with the roll-out of the world’s first WHO-recommended malaria vaccines through routine immunisation programmes across Africa, beginning with Liberia and Cameroon.
The first vaccine RTS,S is being rolled out and will be followed by a second approved vaccine, R21, later this year. The historic milestones, in the words of the WHO, have hardly got the widespread coverage they deserve for a disease that is preventable, and which in 2022 claimed some 608 000 lives globally.
The World Malaria Report 2023 and World Health Statistics 2023 –Monitoring Health for the SDGs paint a mixed picture of the state of global health achievements, which, in the two decades before the Covid-19 pandemic, saw remarkable advances in health cohorts, including for instance an increase in global life expectancy from 67 years to 73 years from 2000 to 2019.
South Africa has shown commendable progress in its efforts to become malaria-free, especially in indigenous transmission.
From being a high-burden malaria country, South Africa is now an automatically nominated part of The Malaria Eliminating Countries for 2025 (E-2025) initiative which was launched in 2021, includes 25 countries and is based on criteria such as having a government-endorsed elimination plan, meeting a defined threshold of malaria case reductions in recent years and meeting pre-defined programme requirements.
Last October, WHO updated its recommendations for both RTS,S and R21 vaccines stressing their programmatic use especially for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in endemic areas, prioritising areas of moderate and high transmission. The ultimate reality in malaria elimination however remains mitigating biological threats to malaria interventions, anti-malarial drug efficiency and resistance, vector resistance to insecticides, and the worsening climate change, which WHO has declared “the single biggest health threat facing humanity”.
Parker is an economist and writer in London