After Years of Bombing Hospitals and Rescue Workers, the Syrian Regime Gets a Seat on the WHO’s Directorate

June 10, 2021 | David Adesnik
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Those who have followed the UN’s attitude toward Israel have become accustomed to the spectacle of representatives of the world’s most brutal tyrannies gathering to condemn the Jewish state for imaginary human-right abuses. Thus, true to form, the supposedly apolitical World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a routine condemnation of Israel, sponsored by such states as Cuba and Pakistan. But the WHO’s hypocrisy doesn’t stop there, as David Adesnik writes:

In an uncontested vote, the Syrian government . . . won a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organization, which reported last fall that it had documented 494 attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria, mainly in areas under assault by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

A seat on the executive board provides Syria with a vote on two pivotal matters. The first is the nomination of the director general. The second is the appointment of the WHO’s six regional directors.

For Syria, the choice of regional director for the eastern Mediterranean is key to insulating the Assad regime from accountability for its diversion of humanitarian assistance delivered by the WHO. At the height of the war, Assad’s forces regularly stripped medical aid from UN convoys headed for areas under rebel control, a violation of international humanitarian law. “Sterilization equipment [was] withheld, forcing surgeons to reuse surgical items without sterilization between operations,” wrote the physician and public-health advocate Annie Sparrow. The WHO even spent millions subsidizing Ministry of Defense blood transfusion programs, despite Syrian forces’ record of atrocities.

Along with other UN agencies, the WHO effectively resigned itself to such arrangements.

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