Why the U.S. Is So Upset with the WHO

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The United States has halted its funding of the World Health Organization (WHO). President Trump has repeatedly accused the WHO of being slow to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and of being “China-centric.”

The U.S. provided approximately US$ 893 million in 2019 to the WHO, contributing to about one-fifth of the total funding of the multilateral organization. The U.S. is by far the biggest contributor. In contrast, China contributed about US$ 86 million in 2019, less than one-tenth of the U.S.

“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric.” President Donald Trump, via a tweet on 7 April.

The U.S. believes that the WHO could have done more to prevent the spread of coronavirus and that it did not act strongly enough against China, where the virus originated. In particular, the U.S. believes that the WHO should have informed the world about the possibility of human transmission of the virus much earlier than it did. The U.S. appears to be particularly peeved at the accommodative stance of the WHO towards China’s handling of the virus.

As an independent multilateral organization, the WHO has the power to declare public health emergencies even in the face of opposition from the concerned member state. The organization also has the authority to question member states about possible cover-ups.

A detailed account of the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus and its origins can be viewed here.

There have also been accusations against the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of being biased in favour of China. Reportedly, China-backed Dr. Tedros’ appointment for the Director-General role. During his time as Ethiopia’s Health Minister, and later Foreign Minister, the country received millions in additional funding – including from China, which had previously given little or nothing to support the country.

President Trump’s decision to halt funding has drawn criticism from major organizations in the healthcare sector, including charities, non-governmental organizations and healthcare companies. They believe that the crisis cannot be dealt with without the support of the WHO.


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