On Tuesday, April 14, United States President Donald Trump announced that his administration would freeze funding to the World Health Organization for 60-90 days after launching an official investigation into the organization.
On April 8, Trump claimed that the international institution did not adequately send reports on the virus to the US, which inadvertently cost the country response time. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said.
Threat to freeze funding
Trump went on to accuse the WHO of being “China-centric” and stated that the “[WHO] called it wrong” and that they “missed the call”, saying that they could have informed the US of the virus “much earlier.” In response to a question a few minutes later, however, the president said: “I’m not saying we’re going to do it, but we’re gonna look at it.” He then acknowledged that due to the global pandemic, the current time may not be the best to freeze funding.
In a tweet a day earlier, Trump wrote: “The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
Trump’s travel ban from China was announced on January 31, a month after the disease was rapidly spreading throughout China and a day after the WHO declared a global health emergency. The ban also included exemptions that reportedly allowed 40,000 Americans and other authorized travelers to enter the country after the ban.
Soon after the threat, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for support for the WHO. Guterres stated: “It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.” Guterres also stated that while there would be a review into the WHO’s approach in containing the pandemic, it will only take place after the global crisis has subsided.
At a press conference on April 14, Trump resurfaced the funding freeze and said that he would be “instructing his administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization”. He elaborated on his criticism of the organization’s response to the coronavirus: “So much death has been caused by their mistakes.”
Guterres responded again, saying that now is not the time to halt funding. “As I said on 8 April, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime.” According to the WHO website, the US has been the organization’s largest donor, providing roughly 15% or US$893 million of the WHO’s total funding over the time span of two years.
There are now over 2 million novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) cases worldwide, with the US having the most cases globally at a total of 614,246 and a death toll of 26,064 as of April 15. New York State is by far the worst hit, with a total of 203,123 confirmed cases and 10,834 deaths. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that due to the state’s efforts to abide by social distancing and stay-at-home regulations, the curve is flattening.