Coronavirus: Trump suspends WHO funding and blames organisation for Covid-19 deaths

‘It’s crucial that the United States is at the centre of the discussion, not on the sidelines,’ says Democratic senator, blasting president’s move

John T. Bennett
Wednesday 15 April 2020 00:21 BST
Trump halts US payments to WHO over coronavirus warnings

The United States is suspending funding to the World Health Organisation, Donald Trump has announced, while his administration reviews what he described as the group’s “disastrous” role in “covering up” the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

“The reality is the WHO failed to obtain, vet and share information in a timely fashion,” Mr Trump said. “The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable.”

The US president, who has been accused ignoring warnings from his own intelligence agencies of the virus’s severity as well as failing to act in a timely manner, said “delays the WHO experienced in declaring a public health emergency cost valuable time, tremendous amounts of time”.

Mr Trump accused the WHO of “opposing travel bans” and repeating Chinese government “propaganda” that the virus could not be transferred from person to person.

The US leader issues a mild threat to withdraw from the organisation, saying, “we’ll have no choice but to do that”, unless the group changes its actions. The US is the largest financial contributor to the WHO; China is second.

His administration plans to redirect funding meant for the WHO to work with countries on health issues “in other ways”. As usual, he did not describe what those “other” avenues might be.

He repeated his misleading statement that Washington sends the WHO “$400m to $500m” each year. Budget documents show it is closer to just over $100m (£78m) annually. There was no immediate response from the organisation.

The “America first” president panned China for only devoting around $40m annually to the WHO’s coffers, and lamented world leaders for allowing the group to defend China while it, according to the Trump administration, misled the world about Covid-19.

Hours before Mr Trump appeared in the Rose Garden and made the announcement at the start of his daily Covid-19 briefing, congressional Democrats blasted his plan.

“Clearly, multiple failures at both the national and international level led to the pandemic disaster that we are facing today. As an international community, we must look critically at what went right and what went wrong in this global response, and learn from this so that we do not repeat the same mistakes again,” said senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

“It’s crucial that the United States is at the centre of the discussion, not on the sidelines, as the international community determines what path the World Health Organisation takes moving forward,” he said. ”Cutting back on America’s support and involvement will mean that the United States does not have a full seat at the table during these discussions, and will only magnify the already troubling influence of China at the WHO.”

For their part, senior WHO leaders have tried to resist a public spat with Mr Trump, saying simply that the midst of a pandemic is not the proper time for a funding fight.

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