Trump Admin Informs World Health Organization of Intent to Withdraw - Do You Support the Move?
Do you support the U.S. withdrawing from the World Health Organization?
by Countable | 7.7.20
What’s the story?
- The Trump administration notified Congress on Tuesday that it notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of its intent to withdraw, a process which will be finalized in July 2021. The U.S. has been the biggest donor to the United Nations-sponsored health agency, contributing $400 million in 2019 ― about 15% of the WHO budget.
- President Donald Trump initially suspended U.S. funding for the agency in April over its handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, insisting on reforms to lessen the influence of the People’s Republic of China on the WHO. In May, Trump gave the WHO 30 days to reform or the funding suspension would become permanent, and later that month the president announced the termination of the U.S. relationship with the WHO after no reforms were pursued.
- During the pandemic, the WHO has repeatedly praised the PRC for its efforts to control the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China, despite evidence that Chinese Communist Party officials suppressed the disclosure of information about the virus during the early stages of the outbreak.
- The U.S. has been working with alternative partners for ongoing global health projects in advance of its withdrawal from the WHO. Other Western countries, including Australia and the so-called G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, plus the U.S.), have called for a review of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic and reforms.
WHO Response Timeline
- Following the first identification of the novel coronavirus outbreak in early December 2019, the WHO didn’t move to conduct an independent investigation of reports that conflicted with the Chinese government’s accounts. By December 30, 2019, the WHO office in Beijing was aware of a “major public health” concern in Wuhan after it saw reports about a “pneumonia of unknown cause” in a Chinese media outlet.
- On December 31, 2019, health officials in Taiwan ― an independent nation that the PRC regards as a rogue island province and has been denied WHO membership as a result ― provided the WHO with information indicating human-to-human transmission of the virus, but the WHO didn’t share that information with the rest of the world.
- On January 1 & 2, 2020, the WHO requested further information about these reports from the PRC, but didn’t receive a response until January 3rd. The WHO clarified this aspect of the timeline in a revision issued June 29th, after it previously omitted when it received a response from the PRC.
- On January 14, 2020, the WHO took the Chinese government’s position on human-to-human transmission and tweeted from its official account that, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” The statement was in conflict with censored reports from Wuhan.
- According to reports by the Associated Press, Chinese Communist Party officials determined the virus could be spread from person-to-person on January 14th, but determined that the information was “not to be spread on the internet” and “not to be publicly disclosed.”
- Recordings of WHO meetings in mid-January obtained by the Associated Press reveal that despite the agency's public praise of China's response, its expert epidemiologists were growing frustrated by China's refusal to share critical information with the agency.
- On January 20, 2020, Chinese Communist Party officials announced that person-to-person transmission was possible, but three days later on January 23rd the WHO acknowledged person-to-person spread and declined to declare an international public health emergency.
- On January 28th, a delegation of top WHO officials traveled to Beijing to meet with President Xi & senior Chinese officials to request information. The group included Dr. 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. The next day, the WHO announced China would accept help from international experts.
- On January 30th, Dr. Tedros released a statement saying “the Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak” and that he has “absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment to transparency”. Dr. Tedros then declared an international public health emergency and added:
“Let me be clear: this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”
- On January 31st, the Trump administration banned travel from China to the U.S. by non-citizens, except for the immediate family of citizens & permanent residents. Dr. Tedros on February 3rd criticized efforts to ban travel from China to the U.S. and other countries, saying:
“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.”
- On March 3rd, Dr. Tedros said that “COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza from the data we have so far” and said evidence from China was that only 1% of reported cases are asymptomatic, despite pushback from experts examining data from Japan & South Korea.
- It wasn’t until March 11, 2020, that the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, at which point over 100,000 people had been infected and more than 4,000 killed in at least 114 countries; including 1,370 cases and 37 deaths in the U.S.
What They’re Saying
- President Donald Trump’s letter to Dr. Tedros in May warning of U.S. withdrawal if “major substantive reforms” didn’t occur concluded that:
“It is clear that the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China… I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests.”
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) tweeted:
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: White House via Flickr / Public Domain)
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