Courtesy of Vox.com
By Eva Lynch
During the daily COVID-19 briefing on April 14, President Donald Trump announced his administration would halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) while an investigation into the organization’s handling of the virus is conducted.
Participating countries and other entities, including the United Nations and the World Bank, annually contribute a required amount to the WHO, of which the US gives $237 million, and most contributing countries give much more in non-required funds. The United States gives $656 million in voluntary funds, which will now be halted during the review of the organization.
In his announcement, Trump explained that this freeze and subsequent review represent the White House’s response to the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak and the United States’ assessment of the organization’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”
Trump further slammed the WHO’s response to the outbreak in China, saying, “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death.”
Trump’s primary explanation and reason for blame is that if the WHO would have acted appropriately and quickly enough, he and other world leaders would have been able to institute travel bans from China in order to lessen the virus’ magnitude in the United States.
In her clarification of Trump’s announcement, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, added that the United States will investigate reporting of virus rates by the WHO as well as how reports were received from China. Birx acknowledged that the organization can only act when and as quickly as it receives data, and China was not forthcoming with occurrences of human-to-human transactions of the virus until mid-January.
This funding stoppage may seem sudden to many Americans, but it actually follows in two patterns. First, the Trump administration’s 2021 fiscal year proposal includes a $65 million decrease in required spending to the WHO. Second, many see the funding freeze as the next step in the administration’s notorious quest for other blameworthy entities, which many claim is in order to deflect blame from its own severely criticized handling of the virus.
Many politicians quickly responded to Trump’s announcement, and the consensus seems to be that China and the WHO did make mistakes which may require investigation, but also that the Trump administration may be looking to divert blame for the crisis from itself. Chris Murphy, Democratic Senator of Connecticut and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of these politicians.
“Right now, there is a very coordinated effort amongst the White House and their allies to try to find scapegoats for the fatal mistakes that the President made during the early stages of this virus,” said Murphy. “It is just wildly ironic that the President and his allies are now criticizing China or the WHO for being soft on China when it was in fact the President who was the chief apologist for China during the early stages of this crisis.”
Trump’s earlier praise of China includes a January 24 tweet that reads: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”