U.S. Will Halt Funding to World Health Organization Over Coronavirus Response


APRIL 14, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump said the U.S. would halt funding to the World Health Organization while his administration investigates what he called the group’s mismanagement of the coronavirus response.

The president faulted the WHO for, in his view, failing to adequately investigate early information about the virus’s ability to spread from one human to another, among other things.

“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference at the White House. “So much death has been caused by their mistakes.”

A senior administration official said the funding halt would go into effect immediately. The official said the U.S. provided $453 million to the WHO in fiscal year 2019 and that the administration will discuss diverting the money that would have gone to the WHO to other health programs.

Mr. Trump said the coronavirus might have been contained in China if the WHO had acted more quickly. The president also alleged that WHO officials weren’t skeptical enough of Beijing’s statements about the virus, and he said they resisted efforts by the U.S. to put travel restrictions on China.

In mid-January, the WHO said there was no clear indication that coronavirus was spreading between humans. On Jan. 30, the group declared coronavirus to be a “public-health emergency of international concern.”

Democrats panned Mr. Trump’s decision, arguing it could complicate global efforts to respond to the pandemic. “Any attempt by the President to force United States health experts to work without the WHO would be counterproductive and lead to more suffering in the end,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.) said in a statement.

The effort to withhold the WHO’s funding has been part of a broader push to curtail China’s growing global influence but was delayed by turnover inside the White House and the State Department, according to current and former administration officials.

Mr. Trump criticized the WHO for not calling out China on its alleged lack of transparency over the virus.

However, earlier this year, the U.S. president praised China’s response. “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter in January. “It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

The U.S. president has himself come under criticism for his response to the pandemic, including a lack of widespread testing and persistent problems getting crucial medical equipment to states.

The current WHO director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia, warned countries not to politicize the coronavirus after Mr. Trump threatened the group’s funding last week.

The U.S. pays for about 22% of the WHO’s budget, with money passing through various agencies, according to WHO records. In recent years, the organization has received money from the State Department, Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development, much of which has been spent eradicating polio and aiding health and nutrition services in Africa, according to the WHO.

In 2020, the American share will be just under $116 million, according to the WHO, but the U.S. can also make larger voluntary contributions. For instance, in 2017 the U.S. made a voluntary contribution of $401 million, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.

Courtesy/Source: The Wall Street Journal