Posted by Bill Boyd
The politics of the Covid19 response have cost a lot of lives internationally. Sadly, in the early days it became a US/China issue and this delayed the preparations for what was inevitably going to happen. I read yesterday that US agencies took two months to issue their purchase orders for items such as ventilators and protective clothing and have since struggled to catch up.
 
I would not take sides in this as clearly the virus developed in China and the US was suspicious of what was happening but it is relevant as I wanted to comment on the Rotary involvement with people involved.
 
Dr Bruce Aylward is the Deputy Director of the World Health Organisation and he has been assigned to lead the response by WHO to the virus. Bruce is a Canadian and chaired the GPEI from 1998 to 2014. The GPEI is the partnership of our polio eradication partners, originally WHO, UNICEF, the Centre for Disease Control and Rotary and later joined by the Gates Foundation. He led a WHO team that worked exclusively on polio eradication.
He is a good man and did very good work for us Rotarians. He was taken from his polio role to address the first ebola outbreak in Africa and credits the polio infrastructure as being the important tool in getting the disease under control. Many African countries do not have strong health systems and our polio methodology had developed teams who were capable of working widely throughout their countries. 
 
He was then seconded to the UN to set up a new structure for their humanitarian agencies and recalled to WHO when covid19 appeared.
 
In February he led a WHO team of six to Wuhan as a fact finding mission. The Chinese provided a fast train as transport for them as normal trains were not stopping at Wuhan. When he returned he made the statement that the world should copy China’s response to the virus, which is similar to that many Western countries including New Zealand have subsequently adopted. Extreme elements in the US press accused him of spreading Chinese propaganda and demanded that he and WHO must apologise to the US.
 
You do not see him appearing at press conferences as the WHO Director General is the front man but it is heartening for us to know that someone who proved himself working alongside Rotary is leading the WHO fight against covid19.
 
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