After the World Health Organization released an article titled “Uttar Pradesh going the last mile to stop Covid-19” on May 7, several media outlets and the Uttar Pradesh government claimed that the WHO praised the state government for its door-to-door Covid-19 surveillance campaign.
But WHO, in the article, merely speaks of its role in the programme. While all assumed that the health agency patted the state’s back for carrying out the “trace, test, track, treat” campaign, WHO spokesperson told FactChecker that “surveillance and monitoring are among key WHO roles” across the country.
After the May 7 article, WHO shared a tweet thread on May 10 showing its own groundwork where it “supported” the UP government by deploying “field officers on the ground to monitor and share real-time feedback with the government for immediate corrective action to ensure quality”.
Barrage of claims
This was followed by media outlets and the UP government and several of its officials repeatedly touting WHO’s article as a “praise” for the UP government for carrying out the campaign in rural areas. Here are all these claims:
Other such articles include a Zee News story titled “Uttar Pradesh: WHO praises Yogi government’s work against Coronavirus”, The Pioneer’s article titled “WHO praises UP govt for ‘trace, test and treat policy in rural areas” and OpIndia also brought out a similar piece.
Chief Minister Adityanath’s office also tweeted how the global health body praised the government’s efforts.
Responding to the WHO’s tweet thread, the Director of Information & Public Relations of the UP government, Shishir Singh, said the WHO acknowledged the “strategy” of the government:
BJP National Secretary Y Satyakumar also made a similar claim in a tweet:
Moreover, on May 10, the state government, in a press note shared with local journalists that FactChecker has access to, said, “With the aim of breaking the chain of coronavirus infection and keeping villages safe from it, a large trace, test, track and treat campaign is currently being conducted in more than 97,000 revenue villages. This campaign is getting positive results. The World Health Organization has also praised our campaign today.”
Further, during a press briefing on the UP government’s official YouTube channel, the Additional Chief Secretary of the Information Department of UP, Navneet Sehgal, said the WHO had praised and acknowledged the efforts of the UP government’s campaign against Covid-19. FactChecker also wrote to Sehgal and called him asking for a comment but received no response. We will update the story if and when he replies.
However, this is mainly to showcase the WHO’s own groundwork which they had initiated for eradicating polio and which is being repeated for Covid-19. Although the WHO acknowledges the UP government’s assistance in this campaign, it does not say that it is the government’s strategy.
“Surveillance and monitoring are among key WHO roles in the field across the country. The WHO has a bigger team of medical officers and field monitors in Uttar Pradesh for several years now. The team was established to support the polio eradication programme,” the WHO said in a statement.
In the WHO’s response, the agency highlighted its efforts in previous vaccination programmes held in the state.
“House-to-house monitoring was one of the key initiatives undertaken to identify children who missed vaccination that helped in improving vaccination coverage. This initiative is among the best practices and has been replicated for Routine Immunization and now for active case finding in the pandemic. This initiative was undertaken in two phases in Uttar Pradesh last year and is being repeated now,” read the statement.
The May 7 article also stated that the government teams have been moving across 97,942 villages covering all the 75 districts in UP, which is the most populous state in the country (with 23 crore people), from May 5 to May 10. For this campaign, the state government has deployed 1,41,610 teams and 21,242 supervisors from the state health department to ensure all rural areas are covered.
“The WHO, which supported the Uttar Pradesh government in training and micro-planning for the activity, now has field officers on the ground to monitor and share real-time feedback with the government for immediate corrective action to ensure quality…” the article read.
While underlining its efforts, the WHO said on the inaugural day the agency’s field officers monitored over 2,000 government teams and visited at least 10,000 households. The WHO has also stated that they will provide support and guidance till the completion and compilation of the final report.
On May 1, there were 3,01,833 active Covid-19 cases and a cumulative total of 12,874 deaths in the state, according to data from covid19india.org. As on May 14, UP had reported 1,93,815 active cases and a 31% increase (16,957) in total Covid-19 deaths.
This article first appeared on FactChecker.in, a publication of the data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit IndiaSpend.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.