TWN Info Service on Health Issues (Apr20/11)
16 April 2020
Third World Network

Trump to “halt” funding to the WHO

Published in SUNS #9101 dated 16 April 2020

Geneva, 15 Apr (D. Ravi Kanth) – The United States President Donald Trump on 14 April announced that his administration will “halt” funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) while it investigates the global health body’s alleged mismanagement in covering up the coronavirus response.

At his daily press conference on 14 April, President Trump lashed out at the WHO for having “failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable.”

“So much death has (been) caused by their (WHO’s) mistakes,” he claimed.

President Trump though failed to respond to the persistent questions about what the administration had done throughout February, when the WHO had alerted and warned member states of the pandemic and the safety measures to be adopted by every state.

As COVID-19 continues to pile up fatalities on an exponential scale, with reported deaths of more than 125,000 and more than 2 million COVID-19 positive cases around the world, President Trump’s decision to stop funding to the WHO came under intense criticism and condemnation for politicizing the COVID-19 crisis, to cover up his own grotesque failure to take timely action in the US.

The COVID-19, said President Trump, might have been contained in China if the WHO had acted rapidly, accusing WHO officials, particularly its director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of praising China’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.

The WHO was not ready to point a finger at China’s attempts to conceal information about the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the US President alleged.

The funding cut by the US will come into immediate effect. Trump said that the US annual contribution to the WHO is between $400 and $500 million while China contributed a measly sum of around $40 million annually.

Last year, the US provided $453 million to the WHO. The US contribution to the global health body is almost a quarter of its funding to its CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and much less than the expenditure for several big hospitals in the US.

Being the largest contributor of funds to the WHO, the US has the duty to insist on full accountability of the WHO’s failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the US President claimed.

President Trump alleged that the WHO has opposed Washington’s decision to impose travel restrictions on China and other nations.

“We will continue to engage with WHO for bringing reforms, and for the time being the US will redirect global health with others by directly working with them,” Trump said.

But President Trump’s decision against WHO has come under intense criticism and condemnation for politicizing the issue for his re-election in November, and attempting to blame the WHO. Trump’s inaction is estimated to have caused the loss of more than 25,000 lives in the US.

Responding to the US decision, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this is “not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”

“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time… It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the WHO organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” the UN Secretary-General said.

“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” the UN Secretary-General emphasized.

During the WHO’s briefing on 13 April, Dr Tedros was pointedly asked about the impact on the WHO if the US halted the funding to the global health body.

But Dr Tedros, however, remained silent and chose not to answer the question from the CNN reporter.

Trump’s decision was “a crime against humanity… Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity,” wrote Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper on 15 April.

Dr Tedros cautioned countries that have huge vulnerable and poor populations to provide requisite public health support, including the provision of food, during the lockdown conditions.

On Tuesday (14 April), India and several other developing countries with large migratory and agricultural labourers extended the complete lockdown conditions until early May.

According to various reports, the developing and poor countries have not pursued comprehensive strategies that included adequate public health measures as well as immediate ameliorative measures for the hundreds of millions of vulnerable populations starved of basic survival necessities, particularly food.

Against this backdrop, Dr Tedros expressed sharp concern over pursuing ad hoc strategies that fail to tackle some fundamental issues.

“Physical distancing restrictions are only part of the equation, and there are many other basic public health measures that need to be put in place,” Dr Tedros emphasized on 13 April.

He called on “all countries to ensure that where stay-at-home measures are used, they must not be at the expense of human rights.”

Without naming the heavily-populated developing countries like India, Dr Tedros said that “each government must assess their situation, while protecting all their citizens, and especially the most vulnerable.”

As part of a new strategy that WHO was publishing on 14 April, he summarized the major findings on “what we’ve [the WHO] learned and charts the way forward.”

He highlighted six criteria for countries as they consider lifting restrictions such as the United States and several other European countries like Spain which experienced maximum loss of lives from the COVID-19.

The six points include:

* First, that transmission is controlled;

* Second, that health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact;

* Third, that outbreak risks are minimized in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes;

* Fourth, that preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go;

* Fifth, that importation risks can be managed; and

* Sixth, that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.

“Every country should be implementing a comprehensive set of measures to slow down transmission and save lives, with the aim of reaching a steady state of low-level or no transmission,” he emphasized.

Dr Tedros urged countries to “strike a balance between measures that address the mortality caused by COVID-19, and by other diseases due to overwhelmed health systems, as well as the social economic impacts.”