The US: Working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization

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Publish Date : 04/28/2020 19:36
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President Trump and his top aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body.

The White House announced it would be suspending financial support for WHO pending a review of the organization’s activities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with President Trump stating the U.S. contributes “between $400 million and $500 million per year to the WHO. Trump accused the WHO of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus crisis, adding that the U.S. "has a duty to insist on full accountability." The US has been the largest funder of the organization since it was founded in 1948.


According to Washington Post, although Trump announced a 60-day hold on U.S. money to the WHO, other steps by his top officials go beyond a temporary funding freeze, raising concerns about the permanent weakening of the organization amid a rapidly spreading crisis. At the State Department, officials are stripping references to the WHO from coronavirus fact sheets, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has instructed his employees to “cut out the middle man” when it comes to public health initiatives the United States previously supported through the WHO.


The United States will now attempt to reroute the WHO funds to nongovernment organizations involved in public health issues, according to interviews with U.S. officials and an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post. “The Secretary has asked the State Department and USAID to identify and utilize alternative implementers for foreign assistance programs beyond the WHO,” read a memo sent to State Department employees in recent days. U.S. opposition to the WHO also prevented health ministers at a virtual G-20 meeting from issuing a joint statement on the pandemic earlier this month.


Some believe that the decision gives Trump somebody else to blame and a way to deflect from his own missteps in handling the virus. They also question the value of seeking alternatives to the WHO at this juncture.
António Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, to which the WHO reports, said in a statement, "Now is a time for unity in the global battle to push the COVID-19 pandemic into reverse, not a time to cut the resources of the WHO, which is spearheading and coordinating the global body’s efforts."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "This is another case, as I have said, of the President’s ineffective response, that ‘a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others.’ This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged."


Bill Gates tweeted, "Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever."


“A 60-day pause to U.S. funding is a headache for the WHO but not necessarily an existential crisis. That said, if State starts giving funds to other implementers to carry out health programs the WHO would have overseen, there is a risk that the U.S. starts spreading resources out in an inefficient, fragmentary fashion,” said Richard Gowan, a senior fellow at the International Crisis Group.


More than 1,000 organizations and individuals including charities, medical experts and healthcare companies from around the world have written to the White House arguing the Trump administration should reverse course and keep funding the World Health Organization (WHO). "The United States cannot rid this insidious virus from the country, nor around the world, without WHO," "WHO is the only organization with the technical capacity and global mandate to support the public health response of all countries during this critical time." Signatories include influential companies and groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Oxfam, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Public Health Association and the healthcare company Kaiser Permanente.

 

 

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“ The US: Working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization ”