WHO politics deny exile Tibetan hospital prize for its TB control success

May 21, 2014 4:50 am0 commentsViews: 145

(TibetanReview.net, Nov29, 2013) An exile Tibetan hospital at Dharamsala, India, has been chosen for a prestigious honor for making major contributions to the fight against TB but won’t get the prize because Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), would not sign the approval. Chan, a Hong Kong Chinese, became the head of WHO with support from Beijing, which is said to have influenced her decision.

However, the WHO’s specious excuse is that the Tibetan Delek Hospital, which was in October informed of its choice by the organization that oversees the Kochon Prize, a prestigious honor for major contributions to the fight against TB, has ties to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) – as the Tibetan government-in-exile is known by – an entity not recognized by the United Nations.

Being the UN’s public-health agency, the WHO is not able to recognize any entity that is not in turn recognized as a legal authority by the UN,” the Wall Street Journal Nov 26 quoted WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl as saying.

The report cited people familiar with the selection process as saying China objected to the choice of the winner. But China’s Permanent Mission in Geneva, where the WHO is based, didn’t respond to a request to comment on whether it had raised concerns, the report added.

The Kochon prize is funded by the Kochon Foundation, a nonprofit organization in South Korea, and winners are selected by the Stop TB Partnership, an international body that is housed at the WHO and subject to its rules. The Stop TB Partnership has declined comment on the controversy. The Kochon Foundation has also not responded to an email request for comment from the Wall Street Journal.

People close to the process have said the politicization of the award, which is worth US$ 65,000, means that the status of the selection of this year’s winner is now unclear.

“It’s a violation of the mission of the prize to deny an award to a program that is saving the lives of a huge number of poor people,” the report quoted Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS research and policy think tank that also focused on TB issues, as saying.

The Tibetan Delek Hospital has the Dalai Lama as its patron and three CTA officials serve on its board of directors, including the minister of health as board chair. However, its TB program is registered as a charitable organization in India and its administration is “completely autonomous,” Dr Tsetan Dorje Sadutshang, the hospital’s chief medical officer, has said.

He has said the program does not take money from the CTA for its budget of about $200,000 per year which is funded with small grants from nongovernmental programs and individual donors. It gets some TB drugs from India’s TB program. The hospital treats both Tibetan and Indian patients.

The incidence of TB among Tibetans in India is said to be one of the highest in the world. It was 461 per 100,000 in 2010, compared to the incidence among all Indians, put by the WHO, at around 176 per 100,000 in 2012. Despite high rates of TB and drug-resistant TB in the community, the Tibetan program says 93% of its patients in 2012 were either confirmed cured or were well after their treatment ended.

The program currently has about 300 people under treatment; it gets about 200 new cases a year, with about 14% of them being drug-resistant forms of the disease.

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