BH CORRESPONDENT, Washington: Is it personal vendetta or a political decision of the US to stop funding Europe-based World Health Organisation? It’s a subject that is bound to be debated in weeks and months to come. Well, it’s no secret that Trump has been ranting about the WHO in the past couple of days by saying it was biased towards China and misinformed the US about the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump dropped the bombshell. “We have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” the Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
Trump has accused the organisation several times of not moving quickly enough to sound the alarm over COVID-19 and of being too China friendly. He has attacked the agency for advising the US against banning travel from China to other parts of the world amid the outbreak.
“And the World – WHO – World Health got it wrong,” Trump told reporters at the White House last week. “I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly and – not good.”
Reactions from world leaders came in swiftly and were terse. António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, warned that, with the global health agency “on the front lines” of the crisis, it is not the time to halt funding. The US is the WHO’s biggest donor, contributing more than $400 million a year.
“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19,” he said, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
As tension has been building between Trump and WHO, on April 9, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for unity and a halt to “politicization” of the global health crisis, specifically urging China and the United States to show “honest leadership”.
Trump’s decision to withhold funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic is “as dangerous as it sounds,” Bill Gates said on Wednesday.
“Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” the Microsoft founder and philanthropist said in a tweet.
The WHO declared coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern in late January and a week later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $100 million to help contain the outbreak.
Those funds, the foundation said, would be used to help find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread and improve detection and treatment.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry urged the US to fulfill its obligation to the WHO at a critical time.
About $20 million was directed toward groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO.