USA : President Trump Suspends Aid to WHO

United States President Donald Trump has ordered the suspension of his country’s funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis. Speaking during a White House news conference on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, President Trump said, « Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained with very little death ». He added that the WHO promoted China’s « disinformation » about the virus that led to a wider outbreak.

The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget. A decision on whether the US resumes funding will be made after the review, which Mr Trump said would last 60 to 90 days.

Hours after the US President made the declaration, the UN scribe and some medical experts reacted to the decision. According to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, it is « not the time » to cut funding to the WHO, « Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences, » Guterres said. 

Dr Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association called it « a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier ». Dr Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said, « It’s not at the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing ». Prior to the freezing of funds by the United States, the WHO had launched an appeal in March for $675m to help fight the coronavirus pandemic and is reported to be planning a fresh appeal for at least $1bn. 

Meanwhile, during a strategy update meeting on Wednesday, April 15, 2020, the WHO cautioned countries that ease restrictions imposed to fight the spread of the coronavirus to wait for at least two weeks to evaluate the impact of such changes before easing again. The UN agency said, “To reduce the risk of new outbreaks, measures should be lifted in a phased, step-wise manner based on an assessment of the epidemiological risks and socio-economic benefits of lifting restrictions on different workplaces, educational institutions, and social activities…,” the body reiterated.

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