Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Trump Vows to Cut Off U.S. Funding to the World Health Organization

By Brian Doherty - April 14, 2020 at 08:00PM

President Donald Trump said in a press briefing today that he intends to halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), explaining that "we have deep concerns whether America's generosity has been put to the best use possible," particularly given how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet, and share information in a timely and transparent fashion," he said.

The U.S. was on the hook to contribute 22 percent of the organization's budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, according to WHO's own records—around $236 million. (For the same period, China contributed around $129 million.)

The WHO had long been criticized, rightly, for being more about bureaucracy and behavior control than being directly helpful in infectious disease control. International action to prevent the spread of diseases is not really what it does. In the wake of the last decade's Ebola crisis, scholars noted the organization's fecklessness in bettering actual public health, as opposed to issuing pronouncements about individual or institutional behavior.

In the current pandemic, the WHO was slow to do its minimal job of spreading accurate information about the disease. Indeed, it spread actively inaccurate info, acting as a conduit for Chinese disinformation. So it isn't shocking that the president might prefer to not reward them from U.S. funds.

It is uncertain how Trump's declaration will play out in real-world politics. It is certainly possible that his comment will be ignored by the time the relevant budget decisions are made. But his concerns about the WHO's usefulness in this world crisis are widely shared, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee has launched its own investigation into the WHO's COVID-19 response as well. So perhaps something will come of it.


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