US President Donald Trump has halted all funding to the Worth Health Organization (WHO), citing his view that the body has “failed in its basic duty” in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in the funding to the WHO”, further adding that the US has been “a long standing and generous friend… and we hope it will continue to be so”. However, UN Secretary General António Guterres said this was “not the time” to cut funds to the WHO due to its role being “absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19”.
President Trump has faced fierce backlash after he announced his decision on Tuesday 14 April, with philanthropist and major funder of the WHO, Bill Gates, saying it is “as dangerous as it sounds”. Mr Trump accused the organization of making deadly errors and being overly-trusting of China. He said: “I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”. This was followed by the release of a White House statement that argued the agency had ‘failed’ the American people. It read: “The American people deserve better from the WHO, and no more funding will be provided until its mismanagement, cover-ups and failures can be investigated”. According to figures published on their website, the global health body’s number one funder is the United States, which gave over $400m in 2019.
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Mass, has argued on Twitter that strengthening the “under-funded” WHO is crucial and is one of the best investments that could be made at this time. The American Medical Association has said Mr Trump’s decision is a “dangerous step in the wrong direction”, and Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, announced it would “undermine international co-operation” in the fight against Covid-19.
Coinciding with this decision, the president has faced fierce criticism over his own handling of the pandemic. Many argue that Mr Trump acted too slowly to stop the spread of the virus, to which he argues that he placed travel restrictions from China in January. The U.S. has faced the highest amount of deaths related to Covid-19 in the world, with the state of New York having a higher rate than many countries. Despite this, however, Mr Trump has also announced that the peak has passed and the United States will soon reopen, despite warnings by virologists against such a decision.