Trump says U.S. ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO amid deadly COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. President Trump announced on Friday that the United States is “terminating” its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO) for allegedly failing to enact necessary reforms amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said at a press conference.

Trump had accused the WHO of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic response, and having pro-China bias, accusations that have been refuted or discredited.

“The world is now suffering as a result of the misfeasance of the Chinese government,” Trump said.

The announcement was part of a press conference in which Trump addressed developments in Hong Kong and blamed China for its recent incursions into freedoms there.

Trump, who has blamed others for his bungled coronavirus response at home, froze U.S. funding to the WHO this month, and threatened to make it permanent if the organization did not enact “major substantive reforms.”

“The U.S. had been the top contributor to the agency to the tune of approximately $450 million a year. China meanwhile pays approximately $50 million a year — although Beijing had recently announced a $2 billion injection of funds,” said conservative Fox News, which has repeatedly attacked the WHO and its Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a black man and the first African to run the organization.

The decision to cut ties with the WHO has been roundly criticized in the United States. Global health expert Amanda Glassman, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank based in Washington, DC, recently argued that it was a step in the wrong direction to severe ties with with an organization the United States created.

“The United States created the WHO and the United Nations system. If there is a problem, the United States should name it and fix it, rather than giving up its seat at the table,” she said.

In a tweet thread, former head of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at USAID under the Obama administration, now a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, Jeremy Konyndyk, argued that Trump was attempting “to distract from from the USG’s own failings by throwing WHO under the bus instead.”

“When you have a chaotic response against a deadly pandemic, by definition you’re putting lives at risk,” Konyndyk told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent . “We can’t do this without effective leadership.”

Joanne Lin, the national director for Advocacy and Government Affairs at Amnesty International USA, described the funding freeze as “tone-deaf and deadly”.

“President Trump’s decision to cut ties with the World Health Organization is a callous act that will undercut the global effort to eradicate COVID-19. A once-in-a-century pandemic is not the time to play politics. As the world bands together to fight this pandemic, some countries have increased their financial contributions to the WHO.  The U.S. stands alone in severing ties with the WHO.  This is both tone-deaf and deadly. 

“As people around the country mourn the killing of George Floyd, the President makes no mention of the pain inflicted on his family and communities around the country, choosing instead to attack the only international health organization seeking to eradicate COVID-19, while sowing division and hate at home,” Lin said in a statement.

Lin’s statement followed a letter AIUSA sent to Congress in April, expressing concerns over President Trump’s decision to cut off funding to the WHO. 

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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