In the midst of the row that has erupted surrounding who is to blame for the global coronavirus pandemic, President Trump took the unprecedented step of instructing his administration to temporarily stop funding to the World Health Organization (WHO). At the time, Trump justified this decision by saying that the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable”. Although Trump is no stranger to hyperbole and paranoid decision-making, these are serious accusations that must be investigated.
One of Trump’s main points of contention centers on a discrepancy that exists among the financial contributions provided to the WHO by different countries. His claims that the U.S. pays more than its fair share may indeed hold some water. According to Statista, the U.S. has contributed more to the WHO this year than any other country in the world with $115.8 million as of March 31, 2020, even after slashing this figure in his February budget announcement. China, on the other hand, has contributed around half this sum with $57.4 million, a figure which dwarfs the amount the Asian powerhouse has provided over the last few years.
Perceived China Bias
Trump has accused the WHO of China bias on numerous occasions. He has expressed concern about the amount of power wielded by Chinese interests within the organization itself. As a result, Trump has labeled the WHO as “China-centric” and leveled claims that it is “severely mismanaging” the health emergency. He was irked that the WHO seemed to be reluctant to advise the imposition of travel restriction both in and out of China in the early stages of the pandemic. In addition, he echoed the views of other dissenting voices in criticizing the WHO’s praise of China’s response the virus when it has been widely suspected that the Chinese government attempted to cover up the extent of the crisis.
Accusations of Insufficient Warning
As the virus began to pick up speed in the U.S., Trump lambasted the WHO for providing an insufficient warning of the risk that the coronavirus posed. Whereas there may be some truth in his views regarding the first to points in this article, Trump looks to be on shakier ground with this third claim. The WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11, after which Trump continued to resist calls for a nationwide lockdown and did little to help ensure hospitals were stocked with personal protective equipment and ventilators.
Withdrawing funding from the largest global body responsible for the health of the world population in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century is a decision that may come with serious consequences for global health. However, the truth in Trump’s row with the WHO probably lies somewhere in the middle; the failings of the WHO need to be addressed, but the United States response has also left a lot to be desired. The U.S. currently leads the world in the number of deaths from coronavirus, and not all of the blame can be attributed to the WHO.