Trump halts U.S. funding to the World Health Organization amidst coronavirus pandemic

Nations and health experts worldwide reacted with alarm after President Donald Trump announced the halt

Trump halts U.S. funding to the World Health Organization amidst coronavirus pandemic
President Donald Trump - Photo: Charles Krupa/AP
English 15/04/2020 15:11 AP Washington/Geneva Darlene Superville, Jamey Keaten & Maria Cheng Actualizada 16:49

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President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was cutting off U.S. payments to the World Health Organization during the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the organization of failing to do enough to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China.

Trump, who had telegraphed his intentions last week, claimed the outbreak could have been contained at its source and that lives could have been saved had the U.N. health agency done a better job investigating the early reports coming out of China.

“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said at a briefing. He said the U.S. would be reviewing the WHO’s actions to stop the virus before making any decision on resuming aid.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to Trump’s announcement by saying now is not the time to end support for the World Health Organization, calling the WHO “absolutely critical” to the global effort to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Guterres said that it is possible that different entities read the facts differently but that the appropriate time for a review is “once we have finally turned the page on this pandemic.”

“But now is not that time,” he said, adding that it also is not the time to reduce resources for operations at the WHO or any other humanitarian group that is working to combat the virus.

The United States contributed nearly USD$900 million to the WHO’s budget for 2018-2019, according to information on the agency’s website. That represents one-fifth of its total USD$4.4 billion budget for those years. The U.S. gave nearly three-fourths of the funds in “specified voluntary contributions” and the rest in “assessed” funding as part of Washington’s commitment to U.N. institutions.

A more detailed WHO budget document provided by the U.S. mission in Geneva showed that in 2019, the United States provided USD$452 million, including nearly USD$119 million in assessed funding. In its most recent budget proposal from February, the Trump administration called for slashing the U.S. assessed funding contribution to the WHO to USD$57.9 million.

Nations and health experts worldwide reacted with alarm Wednesday after President Donald Trump announced a halt to the sizable funding the United States sends to the World Health Organization. They warned that the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has repeatedly labelled COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and criticized the U.N. health agency for being too lenient on China, where the novel virus first emerged late last year.

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.

On Twitter, Bill Gates—whose foundation was the second-largest donor to the WHO for its latest two-year budget, contributing over USD $530 million in 2018 and 2019—wrote that stopping funding for WHO during a world health crisis “is as dangerous as it sounds.”

Worldwide, the pandemic has infected over 2 million people and killed over 128,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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