President Trump Suspends Funding to the World Health Organization Over its Coronavirus Response - Do You Agree?
Do you agree with suspending WHO funding over its flawed response to the coronavirus pandemic?
by Countable | 4.15.20
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he is suspending U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) pending an investigation of its handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The WHO, which is the United Nations’ primary agency responsible for international public health, receives a substantial portion of its funding from the U.S.; but it has been criticized for taking China at its word during the early stages of the pandemic when more action could be taken to prevent its spread around the world.
How has the WHO responded to COVID-19?
From December until mid-January, in the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prevented health experts from the U.S. and the WHO from going to Wuhan and Hubei Province to verify the health data it was reporting. During this time, the CCP refused to publicly admit that COVID-19 was spreading between humans.
Taiwan ― an independent nation that China regards as a rogue island province and has been denied WHO membership as a result ― warned the WHO on December 31st that it had observed evidence of human-to-human transmission of an “atypical pneumonia” similar to SARS that required patient isolation. While the WHO asked China for more information, as of January 14th the official WHO Twitter account tweeted:
However, the Associated Press reports that on January 14th Chinese Communist Party officials determined the virus could be spread from person-to-person but told health officials the information was “not to be spread on the internet” and “not to be publicly disclosed.”
During the six day period beginning January 14th, CCP officials continued to downplay the risk, until January 20th when President Xi Jinping said it “must be taken seriously” and the CCP’s leading infectious disease experts announced for the first time the virus was transmissible from person-to-person. Three days later on January 23rd, the WHO admitted that COVID-19 could be transmitted between humans, and on January 30th, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the CCP’s response to the novel coronavirus:
“The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome and shared it with the WHO and the world are very impressive, and beyond words. So is China’s commitment to transparency and to supporting other countries. China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. It’s not an exaggeration.”
On February 3rd, Tedros ― who was elected as leader of the WHO in part because of China’s support and is the first non-medical doctor to serve as WHO director general in the agency's 72-year history ― criticized the U.S. and other countries for blocking travel from China:
“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.”
An international team of WHO infectious disease specialists wasn’t allowed to visit Wuhan to see conditions on at the outbreak’s epicenter until February 22nd, at which time Tedros said:
“The cases that we see in the rest of the world, although the numbers are small, but not linked to Wuhan or China, it’s very worrisome. This outbreak could go in any direction… If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity, then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”
On March 11th, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. At that point there were 1,370 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 37 deaths in the U.S. As of April 14th in the U.S., there are more than 600,000 confirmed cases and 28,000 related deaths; while around the world there are over 2 million cases and more than 129,000 deaths.
How is the WHO funded?
The WHO had an annual budget of $4.422 billion over the two-year period 2018-2019. The funding is derived through assessed contributions from UN member states and additional voluntary contributions.
Total U.S. contributions vary from year-to-year, but from 2010-2017 there were roughly $110 million in assessed contributions, while voluntary contributions from the federal government fluctuated between $212 million and $513 million over that period. Voluntary contributions from the U.S. government, American citizens, and U.S.-based charities totaled $945.6 million from 2016-2017, or 76% of all voluntary contributions to the WHO. In 2017 alone, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed over $324 million to the WHO.
By comparison, China’s voluntary contribution to the WHO in 2017 was about $17 million.
What are both sides saying?
President Donald Trump explained his decision to halt funding to the WHO pending an investigation:
“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… Instead, the WHO willingly took China’s assurances at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency… America and the world have chosen to rely on the WHO for accurate, timely, and independent information to make important public health recommendations and decisions. If we cannot trust that this is what we will receive from the WHO, our country will be forced to find other ways to work with other nations to achieve public health goals.”
Bill Gates, whose foundation is a major benefactor of the WHO, called Trump’s decision “dangerous” on Twitter:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called the decision to cut off funding to the “incompetent” WHO the “right move” and responded to Gates’ criticism on Twitter:
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in an interview on CNN:
“The reason that we are in the crisis that we are in today, is not because of anything that China did, is not because of anything that the WHO did, it’s because of what this president did, it’s because he didn’t take this virus seriously.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: White House via Flickr / Public Domain)
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