Cutting World Health Organization funding in the middle of a global pandemic.
The U.S. will halt funding to the World Health Organization after President Donald Trump accused the global health body of “severely mismanaging” the coronavirus pandemic.
The president floated a potential pause in funding for the agency last week, and followed through with his threat Tuesday, asserting the administration has “deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible.”
Among the WHO’s 194 member states, the United States remains the largest single donor to the agency’s $4.8 billion budget, contributing around $500 million annually, of which the $116m was mandated by the UN and about another $400m as voluntary payments.
According to the WHO, the United States owed more than $99 million to the agency as of March 31.
At a briefing in Washington, Trump said he was instructing his administration to halt funding for the WHO pending a review to assess its role “in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
“As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability,” President Trump said.
Trump’s move has drawn criticism from the United Nations, Russia, China, the European Union, the African Union and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose foundation was the second-largest donor to the WHO.
Bill Gates has said Donald Trump’s decision to stop US funding of the World Health Organization “during a world health crisis” is as “dangerous as it sounds”.
“Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever,” Gates wrote.
The European Union on Wednesday said Trump has “no reason” to freeze WHO funding at this critical stage and called for measures to promote unity instead of division.
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, pushed back at Trump’s announcement.
“Placing blame doesn’t help,” he wrote on Twitter. “The virus knows no borders. We must work closely against COVID-19.”
The Netherlands has also thrown its support behind the WHO. “Now is not the time to hold back funding.
Once the pandemic is under control, lessons can be learned. For now, focus on overcoming this crisis,” Sigrid Kaag, minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, said on Twitter.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says the country is “seriously concerned” about the U.S. government’s decision to suspend funding.
Australia, however, expressed concerns about the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, calling for greater transparency from the health body on the causes of the outbreak.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, criticized the WHO’s apparent refusal to advise China to keep its wet markets closed, which are thought to have been the source of the outbreak in Wuhan.
“On the issue of the wet markets, I just find it baffling. I just don’t get it,” Mr. Morrison said.
Worldwide, the pandemic has infected nearly 2 million people and killed over 127,000, out of which almost 26,000 are from the United States, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to @WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain & mitigate the #coronavirus pandemic. Only by joining forces we can overcome this crisis that knows no borders.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) April 15, 2020
Withholding US funding from @WHO is the correct response to its coronavirus failures and Chinese influence. It should be a warning flare to the entire UN system that the US will not settle for poor performance #COVID19
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) April 15, 2020