Coronavirus pandemic: Trump continues blame game, to halt WHO funding
The US President's announcement comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic in decades as he defends his own handling of the coronavirus outbreak in his country. The decision drew instant condemnation.
Amid growing criticism for a slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus pandemic in the US and questions whether he downplayed the crisis which led to loss of thousands of American lives, President Donald Trump is now desperately trying to defend himself shift the blame elsewhere. His recent target is the World Health Organisation (WHO).
On Tuesday, Trump said he would halt funding to the WHO over its handling of the pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis.
The US President has made frequent use of scapegoats during his short political career. He often lashes out at the media, Democrats, or other when he feels attacked or under pressure.
Now amid the global crisis, he said the review would cover the WHO's "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus".
"The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet, and share information in a timely and transparent fashion." pic.twitter.com/2t5ipAeixQ— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 14, 202
At a White House news conference, said the WHO had "failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable." He said the group had promoted China's "disinformation" about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
The US is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget. The hold on funding was expected. Trump has been increasingly critical of the organization as the global health crisis has continued, and he has reacted angrily to criticism of his administration's response.
TRUMP'S DECISION DRAWS CONDEMNATION
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was "not the time" to reduce resources for the WHO. In a statement, he said it was "not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus".
"Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences," he said.
American Medical Association President Dr Patrice Harris called it "a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier" and urged Trump to reconsider.
Dr Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said the WHO does make mistakes and may need reform, but that work needs to take place after the current crisis has passed.
"It's not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing," he said. Adalja said the WHO collects information about where the virus is active in every county in the world, which the US needs to help guide decisions about when to open borders.
Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who heads the US House of Representatives Committee that sets government spending, said Trump was making a mistake.
"The coronavirus cannot just be defeated here in the United States, it has to be defeated in every conceivable location throughout the world," she said in a statement.
The Republican President recently accused the WHO of being too lenient with China in the earliest days of the crisis, despite having himself praised China in January for its response and transparency.
Trump said the WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China's Wuhan province that conflicted with Beijing's accounts about the coronavirus' spread and "parroted and publicly endorsed" the idea that human to human transmission was not happening.
"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 ... with very little death," Trump said.
He said the US review of the WHO was likely to take 60-90 days.
ILLNESS, DEATH AND ECONOMIC CHAOS
The US death toll from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, topped 25,700 on Tuesday, out of more than 600,000 known US infections, Reuters reported.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and the US economy has been crippled as citizens have stayed home and businesses closed, casting a shadow over Trump's hopes of being re-elected in November.
The WHO is a UN specialized agency -- an independent international body that works with the United Nations. It has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the pandemic. The agency needs more resources than ever as it leads the global response against the disease.
Trump said Washington would discuss with global health partners what it will do with the millions of dollars that would normally go to the WHO and said the US would continue to engage with the organization.
The US President has long questioned the value of the UN and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an "America First" agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the UN Human Rights Council, the UN cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the WHO's 2018-19 biennium budget, the US was required to pay $237 million - known as an assessed contribution, which is appropriated by Congress - and also made some $656 million in voluntary contributions that were tied to specific programs.
Voluntary US funding for the WHO has been used to address such health issues as polio eradication, vaccines, combat HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis and the health of women, newborns and children.