GP Insights # 332, 11 April 2020
This week there has been a different and a series of interrelated developments between the US and the World Health Organisation. On 7 April, the US President Donald Trump announced a cut in aid to the WHO: "We're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO, we're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see." In response, on 8 April, the WHO regional director Dr Hans Kluge said, "the acute phase of pandemic is not the right time to cut funding."
This was followed by Trump's criticism of the WHO on 9 April where he said in his daily briefing, "The organisation receives a vast amount from the US and pointed out that their work has been China-centric."
What is the background?
The US President's criticism of the WHO came after the organisation criticised Trump's policy to restrict and quarantine those who have come from China. On 7 February US decided to restrict the entry of nationals and foreigners with a recent travel history to China and WHO issued a sharp remark that, "restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other intervention." The New York Times has reported that there have been around 4,30,000 people who had arrived from China even after the travel restriction. The US, who is witnessing the highest number of deaths from the pandemic, has called for desperate measures. In this the differences with WHO have led the country to cut its contribution from USD 122 million to 58 million in its recent budget proposal for 2021.
The US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham vowed off 'no funding for the WHO'. On a similar line, Republican Senator Marco Rubio called for the resignation of the WHO director saying, "He allowed Beijing to use WHO in misleading the global community". The US has been the largest contributor, with USD 400 million, whereas China has contributed only USD 44 million last year.
On 8 April, the Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press meeting called on all the leaders to not 'politicise' the situation and highlighted the global cases that have crossed 1.4 million with 83,000 deaths.
What does it mean?
First, the ban on the US aid to WHO may adversely affect, the economic condition of the developing countries who are dependent on the WHO funds to combat the pandemic. Further, these cuts on international organisations might affect the functioning of the organisation. Second, The Trump-WHO argument, is again indicative of Trump administration's disapproval towards an international organisation that doesn't benefit the US. During his tenure, he has withdrawn from various international organisations such as UNESCO and UN Human Rights. Third, aid cut is also one of the ways in deviating attention from COVID-19 when the great powers fail to control the crisis.