Coronavirus: Trump says US may withhold funding from World Health Organisation

The US is the largest contributor to the organisation's budget each year 

Danielle Zoellner
Wednesday 08 April 2020 00:22 BST
Video resurfaces of Trump's new press secretary saying the president will stop Covid-19 from coming to US

President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold US funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) because he claims the group did not react well to some of his regulations against China during the coronavirus pandemic.

The threat came during the White House's Tuesday press briefing where the president said his administration would 'look at' pulling funding from the WHO.

"We're going to put a hold on money spent for WHO," he said during the briefing before rolling back the statement to say the pulling of funding was up for consideration. Reasoning behind pulling the funding was over claims the WHO "missed the call" for the novel virus.

"They seem to be very China-centric. And we have to look into that so we'll look into it we pay for a majority of the money that they get," the president added.

While Mr Trump said he thought certain programs created by the WHO were worthwhile, he also said the organisation made mistakes, specifically opposing his decision to put a travel ban on China.

"We have to look into that, so we're going to look into it," he said.

One decision made by the Trump administration consistently praised by the president was pushing travel bans on China in late January. Mr Trump has often boasted this ban was a bold move on his administration's part to curb the spread.

The regulation contrasted WHO recommendations stating that "travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation". WHO added it could instead cause a severe "social and economic impact" on the countries involved.

“In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions,” the WHO reported at the time.

The WHO said travel bans would be rationale at the very start of an outbreak to help the countries involved control the spread within their borders, but these restrictions “need to be short in duration, proportionate to the public health risks, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves,” the organisation added.

Mr Trump and his administration made the travel ban after the disease had spread across China for weeks, and it included exemptions allowing an estimated 40,000 people to travel on direct flights from China to the US, the New York Times reports.

Threatening to decrease funding follows the president already proposing Congress slash funding in half to the WHO for the fiscal year of 2021. This would diminish the funding given from nearly $122m to less than $58m.

The WHO receives funding from 194 states to make up its budget of about $4.8bn, and the US has remained the budget's largest contributor.

Mr Trump also tweeted against the WHO earlier on Tuesday prior to the press briefing.

"The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric," he wrote. "We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?"

The WHO has not responded to the Trump administration threatening to pull funding.

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