President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that U.S. funding for the World Health Organization is being frozen in response to the world group’s actions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today, I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus. Everybody knows what’s going on there,” Trump said during the White House coronavirus task force briefing.
“American taxpayers provide between $400 million and $500 million per year to the WHO. In contrast, China contributes roughly $40 million a year and even less,” Trump said.
“As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability. One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” he said. “They were very much opposed to what we did. Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives. Thousands and thousands of people would have died.”
The president went on to say, “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
China is “seriously concerned about the US announcement to suspend funding for the World Health Organization,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday, according to Yahoo News. “The current global epidemic situation is grim. It is at a critical moment. This US decision will weaken WHO’s capacities and undermine the international cooperation against the epidemic.”
“We urge the United States to earnestly fulfill their responsibilities and obligations, and support the WHO-led international action against the epidemic,” Zhao said.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont joined China in condemning Trump.
“Withholding funds for WHO in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in,” he said in a statement.
“Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others,” Leahy said. “WHO could have been stricter with China and called for travel restrictions sooner, but it is performing an essential function and needs our strong support.”
Former Democratic presidential candidate and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg also denounced the move.
“We must do everything we can to help the @WHO, and Congress must not let Trump’s dangerous decision to pull funding from them stand,” he said Wednesday.
While the president points fingers, others are taking action. We must do everything we can to help the @WHO, and Congress must not let Trump’s dangerous decision to pull funding from them stand. https://t.co/QfmvO2ALzM pic.twitter.com/WVs7h0W2lr
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) April 15, 2020
However, many Republicans said they supported the decision.
“The current WHO leadership has proven to be incompetent and shown overwhelming evidence of China bias,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Twitter. “Cutting off funding to the WHO at this time is the right move.”
The current WHO leadership has proven to be incompetent and shown overwhelming evidence of China bias.
Cutting off funding to the WHO at this time is the right move.https://t.co/DYv3QaSv20
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) April 15, 2020
“We can’t have a World Health Organization that fails us in a pandemic — but that’s what happened,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana said. “Don’t let Dems & the media tell you otherwise: The WHO did more to aid China’s cover-up than protect the world from COVID-19.”
We can’t have a World Health Organization that fails us in a pandemic—but that’s what happened.
Don’t let Dems & the media tell you otherwise: The WHO did more to aid China’s cover-up than protect the world from COVID-19.@realDonaldTrump is right to halt U.S. taxpayer funding. https://t.co/UQLcqrA103
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) April 15, 2020
On Tuesday, Trump said nations that listened to the WHO paid a terrible price.
“Had other nations likewise suspended travel from China, countless more lives would have been saved,” the president said. “Instead, look at the rest of the world. Look at parts of Europe. Other nations and regions who followed WHO guidelines and kept their borders open to China accelerated the pandemic all around the world. Many countries said, ‘We’re going to listen to the WHO.’ And they have problems the likes of which they cannot believe.
“The decision of other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days. The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above lifesaving measures. Travel bans work for the same reason that quarantines work. Pandemics depend on human-to-human transmission. Border control is fundamental to virus control.”
He said the United States has supported the WHO for decades and has received precious little in return during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Since its establishment in 1948, the American people have generously supported the World Health Organization to provide better health outcomes for the world, and most importantly to help prevent global health crises. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said.
The president said the WHO’s failure to share accurate information about the crisis in a timely manner cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.
“The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable. It’s time after all of these decades. The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts. There was credible information to suspect human-to-human transmission in December 2019, which should have spurred the WHO to investigate and investigate immediately. Through the middle of January, it parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission happening despite reports and clear evidence to the contrary,” Trump said.
He said there were terrible consequences from the WHO’s dereliction of duty.
“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, very little death, and certainly very little death by comparison,” the president said. “This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage.
“Instead, the WHO willingly took China’s assurances to face value and they took it just at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency. I don’t think so.
“The WHO pushed China’s misinformation about the virus, saying it was not communicable and there was no need for travel bans. They told us when we put on our travel ban, a very strong travel ban, there was no need to do it. Don’t do it. They actually fought us. The WHO’s reliance on China’s disclosures likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide, and it may be much more than that.
Trump said the WHO has failed to acknowledge its mistakes.
“The WHO has not addressed a single one of these concerns nor provided a serious explanation that acknowledges its own mistakes, of which there were many. America and the world have chosen to rely on the WHO for accurate, timely, and independent information to make important public health recommendations and decisions,” the president said. “If we cannot trust that this is what we will receive from the WHO, our country will be forced to find other ways to work with other nations to achieve public health goals. We’ll have no choice but to do that.”
He added, “We will continue to engage with the WHO to see if it can make meaningful reforms. … What we do with all of that money that goes to WHO, and maybe WHO will reform, and maybe they won’t, but we’ll be able to see.”
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