As Covid-19 patients were being detected from different regions of Sri Lanka towards end of March 2020, health officials urged the government to take firm action to combat the spread of the virus. The government acted swiftly by addressing infrastructure issues as well as safety and medical equipment requirements to minimize the spread of the pandemic on the island.
In this background, a post appeared on a Facebook page of one Rajini Sulochana Segera titled “Lanka’s health service among the world’s best” with an image of the Director General of World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Ghereyesus. Following text was superimposed under the image of Dr. Tedros.
“Sri Lanka’s health service is one of the best not only in Asia but in the world, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Dr. Ghebreyesus had stated that the reason behind the high quality of Sri Lanka’s health service is because it is freely available. Sri Lanka’s political leadership gives a clear guidance to the Sri Lankan Health Service.”
This post has been shared among many Facebook users and the responses received suggested that Dr. Tedros Ghereyesus’s statement does not attribute to the current pandemic situation. Hence we decided to carry out a fact check.
We carried out a google search to locate news reports on WHO Director General lauding the health service of Sri Lanka.
Two reports of the English daily, “Daily News” drew our attention. Below is an extract from the first report published on 10th April 2018 titled “Lanka’s health service among world’s best – WHO Director General”.
“Sri Lanka’s health service is one of the best not only in Asia but in the world, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Dr. Ghebreyesus had stated that the reason behind the high quality of Sri Lanka’s health service is because it is freely available. Sri Lanka’s political leadership gives a clear guidance to the Sri Lankan Health Service.
The WHO Director-General was addressing the World Health Day celebration in Colombo recently.”
|Link||Archived Link||Daily News epaper|
Upon further investigation into World health Organization website, we managed to locate the speech of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made on 7th April 2018 on the 70th Anniversary of WHO held in Colombo.
We studied the second report published on 1st April 2020 in the Daily News titled “In telephone call with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa WHO Chief lauds Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 response” it reported that “World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has praised the Sri Lankan Government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak in a telephone call with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and a subsequent Twitter post.”
We searched the Twitter account of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and came across the following Tweet on 1st April 2020, where he had thanked Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mobilizing the whole-of-government in the fight against the Coronavirus.
However to ascertain that Director General of WHO , Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had not made a remark about the Sri Lanka’s health system with regards to current pandemic situation, we contacted WHO Sri Lanka and got the confirmation that the statements were based on comments made by the DG of WHO in 2018.
Hence it’s clear that, although Director General of WHO, lauded the Sri Lankan health services while celebrating the 70th anniversary of WHO in 2018, it was not in context to the current pandemic situation due to COVID-19. However, recently Dr. Tedros commended Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s efforts for mobilizing the whole-of-government in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Hence we conclude that the posts created with the impression that WHO DG Dr. Tedros lauded Sri Lankan health services and exclaimed “Sri Lanka’s health service among the world’s best” in relation to current COVID19 situation is misleading as it is an old statement made in a completely different context.
Title:WHO Director General’s Old Statement on SL Health Services shared out of context; Read the truth here….Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe