Trump Gives World Health Organization 30 Days to Show Independence From China or U.S. Funding Suspension Will Become Permanent
Should the U.S. permanently cut funding to the WHO unless it shows independence from China?
by Causes | 5.19.20
What’s the story?
- President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted a letter he sent to World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, which warned that if the WHO doesn’t demonstrate its independence from the People’s Republic of China in the next 30 days the current suspension of U.S. funding to the WHO will become a permanent cut.
- The WHO, the United Nations’ lead public health agency, has faced global criticism for its handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic stemming from its failure to investigate the outbreak during its early stages in Wuhan, China.
- The letter chronicled the WHO’s actions during the pandemic from the initial outbreak in late 2019 through the spring of 2020.
Timeline of WHO’s Response
- Following the first identification of the novel coronavirus outbreak in early December 2019, the WHO didn’t move to conduct an independent investigation of reports that conflicted with the Chinese government’s accounts. By December 30, 2019, the WHO office in Beijing was aware of a “major public health” concern in Wuhan.
- On December 31, 2019, health officials in Taiwan ― an independent nation that China regards as a rogue island province and has been denied WHO membership as a result ― provided the WHO with information indicating human-to-human transmission of the virus, but the WHO didn’t share that information with the rest of the world.
- On January 14, 2020, the WHO took the Chinese government’s position on human-to-human transmission and tweeted from its official account that, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” The statement was in conflict with censored reports from Wuhan.
- According to reports by the Associated Press, Chinese Communist Party officials determined the virus could be spread from person-to-person on January 14th, but determined that the information was “not to be spread on the internet” and “not to be publicly disclosed.”
- On January 20, 2020, Chinese Communist Party officials announced that person-to-person transmission was possible, but three days later on January 23rd the WHO acknowledged person-to-person spread and declined to declare an international public health emergency.
- On January 30th, Dr. Tedros ― who was elected as leader of the WHO in part because of China’s support and is the first non-medical doctor to serve as WHO director general in the agency's 72-year history ― released a statement saying “the Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak” and that he has “absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment to transparency”. Dr. Tedros then declared an international public health emergency and added:
“Let me be clear: this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”
- On January 31st, the Trump administration banned travel from China to the U.S. by non-citizens, except for the immediate family of citizens & permanent residents. Dr. Tedros on February 3rd criticized efforts to ban travel from China to the U.S. and other countries, saying:
“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade. We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent.”
- On March 3rd, Dr. Tedros said that “COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza from the data we have so far” and said evidence from China was that only 1% of reported cases are asymptomatic, despite pushback from experts examining data from Japan & South Korea.
- It wasn’t until March 11, 2020, that the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, at which point over 100,000 people had been infected and more than 4,000 killed in at least 114 countries; including 1,370 cases and 37 deaths in the U.S.
What They’re Saying
- President Donald Trump explained his announcement at the conclusion of his letter to Dr. Tedros, writing:
“It is clear that the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China… That is why it is my duty, as President of the United States, to inform you that, if the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization. I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests.”
- On Monday, Dr. Tedros announced that he will back an independent evaluation of the WHO’s response that was proposed in the World Health Assembly by Australia & the European with U.S. support:
“In that spirit, we welcome the proposed resolution before this Assembly, which calls for a step-wise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation. To be truly comprehensive, such an evaluation must encompass the entirety of the response by all actors, in good faith. So, I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: US Mission Geneva via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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