World Health Organization (WHO) funding from the United States is to be halted, U.S. President Donald Trump has announced.
The decision has been made against the backdrop of the public health crisis caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-12), which causes the disease COVID-19. The WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic earlier this year.
“I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said. He attributed his decision to suspend WHO funding to allegations “that the WHO failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.” He also alleged that the WHO “pushed China’s misinformation about the virus.”
The United States is the WHO’s largest contributor in fiscal terms. “With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic we have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump asserted. He argued that “American taxpayers provide between $400m-$500m per year to the WHO. In contrast China contributes roughly $40m a year, even less. As the organisation’s leading sponsor, the US has a duty to insist on full accountability.”
Whether Trump has the authority to do so is a matter of dispute. “The President does not have the unilateral authority to withhold the United States’ contribution to the World Health Organization,” said Evan Hollander, a spokesperson for the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The decision has been roundly condemned at the international level. “It is…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,” said United Nations Secretary-General and former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres.
“[The] WHO is on the front lines, supporting Member States and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services”, Guterres said. “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.”