US President Donald Trump finally announced on Tuesday that he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted, following up on this threat earlier to halt the funding.
As per Trump, a review will be conducted that would cover the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”
Trump’s announcement comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic in decades while he strongly defends his own handling of the outbreak in the United States.
There are a lot of questions being asked in US media to establish whether he downplayed the looming crisis or ignored warnings from members of his administration about its potential severity. Trump has been trying to attribute blame elsewhere, including at the WHO and in the news media.
US contribution to the WHOSource Statista
Earlier, the Trump administration actually slashed WHO funding in its most recent budget proposal in February, cutting financial contributions from $122.6 million to an assessed contribution of $57.9 million.
Despite the cut, that figure is still the highest contribution by far with China paying in the second-highest sum with $28.6 million. Japan is in third place with $20.5 million. The total sum of assessed contributions due to be paid by all member states this year stood at $246.8 million on January 01, of which approximately $79 million had been paid by March 31.
The US is the largest contributor to the WHO. It funds between $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year, Trump said, while also noting that China “contributes roughly $40 million.”
“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 at its source with very little death,” Trump said.
The controversy regarding the role of WHO in the current pandemic
The decision to withdraw funding from the WHO follows a pattern of skepticism of world organizations that began well before the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has questioned US funding to the United Nations, withdrawn from global climate agreements and lambasted the World Trade Organization — claiming all were ripping off the United States.
Trump said Tuesday if the WHO had acted appropriately, he could have instituted a travel ban on people coming from China sooner.
He said the WHO made a “dangerous and costly” decision to oppose travel restrictions from China. But just days before Trump instituted his ban on travelers from China, he also was praising the country.
On January 24, Trump tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
Later Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s criticism of the WHO but did not specifically react to the announcement that the US would withhold funds from the global body.
And just weeks earlier, Pompeo and the State Department had highlighted the US contribution to the global pandemic response, including its role as “the largest supporter of the World Health Organization since its creation in 1948.”
The US announcement of halting the funding came is a great contrast to the United Kingdom which actually announced an additional £65 million contribution to the WHO.
Four points on which WHO is facing criticism
The global pandemic has been a disaster for economies around the world. Nations are battling to contain the spread of the virus by imposing social distancing and lockdowns.
The economical implication of such lockdowns has been huge. This is probably the worst economic crisis the world is witnessing after the Great Depression.
Four main areas of criticism toward the World Health Organization
1.WHO initially shared the report of no human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus based on the Chinese investigation alone. Apparently, this was proven wrong only a few days later.
Some believe that the WHO should have conducted its own study before following China’s version.
2. The WHO did not issue an advisory on stopping all international transport. Many believe that stopping international travel for a few months could have stopped the spread of the virus throughout the world at a lesser cost than the complete lockdown imposed by many.
3. The WHO considers Taiwan as a part of the People’s Republic of China and excludes its government from membership. This, critics say, is detrimental to global cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Taiwan has emerged as one of the most effective countries in combating the disease.
Taiwan and its defenders have strongly criticized the WHO and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for being overly deferential to Beijing.
4. WHO has also been criticized for its handling the communication of wearing a face-mask. It initially did not recommend face-mask to be worn by individuals. The current evidence suggests that the countries that made face-mask mandatory for its citizens have fared well in the current pandemic.
The move to freeze the funding is the latest in a series of administration actions against international multilateral organizations. Prior to the pandemic, the administration’s fiscal year 2021 proposal laid out a $65 million cut to the World Health Organization — a more than 50% decrease over FY20.