During a briefing in Washington, Trump said that he was asking his administration to suspend funding for WHO pending an examination of its role “in the mismanagement and concealment of the spread of the coronavirus ” The United States is WHO’s largest donor, contributing between US $ 400 million and US $ 500 million annually to the Geneva-based agency.
Trump repeatedly labeled COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” and criticized the United Nations health agency for being too lenient with China, where the new virus first appeared at the end of the year last.
External experts have questioned the infections and deaths reported in China by the virus, calling them too weak and unreliable. Associated Press investigation found that six days had passed between the time Chinese officials became aware of the virus and the time they warned the public that the pandemic could turn into a health disaster public.
The European Union said Wednesday that Trump had “no reason” to freeze funding for the WHO at this critical juncture and called for action to promote unity rather than division. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc of 27 countries “deeply” regrets the suspension of funds and added that the UN health agency was “more than ever necessary” to fight the pandemic.
Borrell said that “only by joining forces can we overcome this borderless crisis.”
The EU has increasingly criticized the Trump administration in recent years.
The new coronavirus is spread by microscopic droplets expelled into the air or left on surfaces when people sneeze or cough. Worldwide, the pandemic has infected nearly two million people and killed more than 127,000 people, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathized with Trump’s criticism of the WHO, in particular his “unfathomable” support for the reopening of China’s “wet markets”, where live animals and freshly slaughtered are sold.
“That said, WHO, as an organization, is doing important work, including here in our Pacific region, and we are working closely with them,” Morrison said on an Australian radio station.
“We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, but they are not immune to criticism either. “
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that WHO was essential to fight the pandemic.
“At a time like this, when we need to share information and need advice we can rely on, WHO has provided that,” she said. “We will continue to support it and continue to contribute. “
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas postponed Trump’s announcement.
“Putting the blame doesn’t help,” he wrote on Twitter. “The virus knows no borders. We must work closely against COVID-19. Strengthening the UN, especially the underfunded WHO, is a better investment, for example, in developing and distributing tests and vaccines. “
Devi Sridhar, president of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, called Trump’s decision “extremely problematic”, noting that the chronically underfunded WHO is leading efforts to help countries by development to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“This is the agency that searches for other countries and leads efforts to end the pandemic,” said Sridhar. “This is exactly the time when they need more funding, not less. “
Sridhar said that Trump’s decision was a short-sighted political decision that would likely have lasting consequences.
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“Trump is angry, but his anger is directed in a way that will ultimately harm American interests,” she said.
China, which has won praise from WHO for its actions to curb the spread of the virus, on Wednesday urged the United States to fulfill its obligations to WHO.
“This decision weakens WHO’s capabilities and undermines international cooperation,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Reviews of the house
Trump’s decision in the United States drew criticism from President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Patrice Harris, from the US health advocacy group Protect Our Care, and from Melinda Gates, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Organization, among others.
Dr. Harris called the move “not dangerous in the wrong direction that will not make it easier to defeat COVID-19”. Gates wrote on Twitter that cutting WHO funding during a pandemic is “as dangerous as it sounds.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton went to Twitter to defend the decision, calling it a “correct answer” in light of the organization’s failures.
Withhold US funding from @WHO is the correct answer to its coronavirus failures and Chinese influence. This should be a warning to the entire United Nations system that the United States will not be content with poor performance # COVID19
The WHO did not respond to repeated requests from the Associated Press for comment, but Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other senior WHO officials were scheduled to attend a press conference on the pandemic on Wednesday.
Many analysts have praised the initial response to the WHO pandemic, which is disputed as national interests collide with the international cooperation on which United Nations agencies rely.
But recently, many governments have broken with WHO advice on public health policy issues, including travel restrictions and whether the public should wear masks.