In an unprecedented move, the U.S. president Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization.
Trump has earlier attacked the UN’s organization and its president Tedros Adhanom for “not doing their job” properly and “dancing to the tone of China.”
His announcement has come in the middle of a global health crisis that is ripping the United States apart.
The U.S. provides $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year as the highest donor, while according to Trump, China “contributes roughly $40 million.”
Trump’s anger has been blazing since coronavirus hit the U.S. with a devastating impact, threatening to cripple the economy he has been counting so much on for his reelection in November.
On Monday, Trump retweeted a tweet calling for the sack of Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAD), who has been at the forefront of the war against coronavirus in the U. S. Fauci had said the Trump administration failed to put up stronger measures to curtail the outbreak, which resulted in many avoidable deaths.
While he has justified his perceived lax response to the crisis, Trump who appears to be looking for a scapegoat has been pointing the finger at the international health body.
“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 at its source with very little death,” he said.
Trump is blaming his decision not to impose a travel ban on people coming from China on the WHO, whom he said failed to act timely and opposed travel restrictions from China.
But his tweet on January 24 showed him heaping praises on China for the way they had handled the health situation back then.
“China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank president Xi!” he tweeted.
Trump’s attack on the WHO on Tuesday was based on its objection to travel restriction in early January. Trump said the health body covered up the spread of the virus, and called its objection to the travel ban “disastrous.”
Though the WHO said in early January that such a travel ban would be “ineffective in most situations,” the group said it could buy countries time to “initiate and implement effective preparedness measures.”
However, the Trump administration showed lax in preparation and wasted valuable time procrastinating. The WHO declared coronavirus a global health emergency in late January, but it was until mid-March that Trump declared a national emergency.
Trump’s administration has been vocal in praising China’s handling of the outbreak. On Tuesday, top health officials of the administration praised China for alerting the U.S. early enough in January.
“Now, some of the assessments that the Chinese made at that time, were obviously not accurate. But you know, it’s a testament to them that within a short period time, as you know, they identified a new coronavirus, which they basically almost immediately shared online, and allowed us to develop the diagnostic test … that gave us eyes on this outbreak,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on SiriusXM’s ‘Doctor Radio’ show.
With clinical trials of many drugs going on, this development has thrown the fight against coronavirus into jeopardy, leaving many countries in Africa and Asia severely vulnerable.
World leaders have called for international cooperation as a weapon to be deployed in the fight against the pandemic. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday night that WHO needs to be supported as its role is critical in the fight against coronavirus.
“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. But now is not the time,” he said.
While the call by the UN to push blame aside for now rings, Trump appears so fixated on his rhetoric that he is wittingly breaking the pandemic preparedness plan, drafted by his administration in 2017, which calls for “expanded international coordination on pandemic preparedness and response … and continued support for the WHO.”
However, Trump’s decision to defund the WHO has followed a pattern of criticisms of the UN and then the WHO even before the outbreak of coronavirus. Trump has notably questioned the US’ playing big financial roles in the UN, while other nations contribute little to nothing. It is seen as part of his efforts to pull the US back from playing lead roles in financing international multilateral organizations.