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Will The United States’ Termination Of The WHO Membership Change The World Political Scenario?

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

On Friday, May 29, the President of U.S., Donald Trump, announced terminating his membership from the World Health Organisation. He announced this citing casual behaviour of WHO regarding handling the issue of COVID-19 as the reason. He alleged that WHO did this to protect China and has pointed out the Chinese carelessness in informing the world about COVID-19. The disease has taken the lives of lakhs of people and has almost completely stopped the wheel of the economy of the whole world.

The President has taken this step in one sudden stroke. Through a tweet, he has warned WHO that he will stop US’ financial assistance if it does not handle the issue seriously and has given 30 days of time for doing so.

Will China Fill The Place Of The United States?

Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

WHO, a UN agency, was created to coordinate international health policy, particularly on infectious disease.  It has 194 members and is run by all of them. Each country chooses its delegation of health experts and leaders in its assembly. All the members play an important role in the organization’s decision and policy-making through their respective members making WHO a multilateral organization.

The WHO has more than 150 field offices globally. It runs programmes locally as well as at world level to eradicate disease, malnutrition and for other health-related issues.

It provides its members local clinics, training to health ministries, equipment, financial aid and community resources, contributing on a large scale in health-related R&D. All this requires financial support. With the US being the largest donor to WHO, it influences the institution’s politics.

With the withdrawal of the US, WHO will lose 15% of its financial resource affecting all these activities mentioned above. This will affect the health condition of the world now and in future also. It can worsen further by giving a precedent to other major players to leave this organization. That will further make the situation critical.

This step will have a significant impact on geopolitics as well. The US leaving the organisation will create a void that China is ready to fill. The move will not change the situation as it will continue the hegemony of any one country, just the controlling hands will change; initially, it was the US and now, it will be China.

China is already trying to play important role in world politics and organisations, one by promoting preferential bilateral partnership through its Belt Road Initiative and second, by building its own institutions like Shanghai Cooperation Group and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It is making the smallest and developing countries in its favour by its economic and military policies. This move will provide it with a nice opportunity to fulfil its global aspirations.

What Can The US Do Instead Of Blocking WHO?

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Leaving the ground is not the option that the US should choose in such a situation. Global health coordination is a kind of public good for all countries. It can benefit everyone equally if everyone cooperates.

So the US’ response shows that it is not cooperating in such a health crisis for the benefit of others as well as its own. This action can have certain serious repercussions.

This reaction will degrade the image of the US as an irresponsible and protectionist country and secondly, it will provide free ground to China to play an important role and win the ground.

It is important for the US to understand that any monopoly cannot last forever and it is important to change with time. So, the US needs to have a look at the changing world and then make its new powerful image according to the time and situation.

It needs to understand that it is not only China which is coming on the ground; in some time, there will be more players. The time is to transform from a monopoly to multipolar world order. The US needs to understand this. It was recently in the news that the masks and test kits provided by China for overseas medical assistance were of poor quality. This can challenge the Chinese global image.

The US can use this to take advantage of this situation by providing good quality masks and health kits. The US can play its card on this matter and on China`s carelessness about providing information. The US still enjoys a dominant position in established world order and governance. It can use its position to demand favourable terms from China.

Cutting its relationship will just isolate the US from the world and give others the chance to take its position. Leaving the ground is not a wise choice of US and neither it is healthy for the world. Now, with changing time and scenario, other players should come forward and play the roles they are supposed to, in this global organisation.  This is how a multilateral organization should function and be the post-COVID new normal.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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