President Trump’s reckless and arbitrary decision to withdraw funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting with blowback from health care experts, business groups, and world leaders, who say he is jeopardizing the global response to the pandemic. Trump’s move is illegal, given that Congress already appropriated funding for the WHO and Trump does not have the power to unilaterally suspend it. They pointed to a January report from the Government Accountability Office saying Trump’s suspension of Ukraine aid for political dirt against his opponents was illegal, saying the same principle applies. The move would also cut off U.S. funding for other health programs such as polio eradication, malaria, and fighting HIV.
Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, usually a Trump ally, said Trump’s action are against U.S. interests. “Cutting the WHO’s funding during the COVID-19 pandemic is not in U.S. interests given the organization’s critical role assisting other countries — particularly in the developing world — in their response,” said the group’s executive vice president Myron Brilliant.
The American Medical Association called it a “dangerous step.” “During the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier,” said the group’s president, Patrice Harris.
“Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to @WHO,” tweeted European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borell. “There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain & mitigate the #coronavirus pandemic.”
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres added it is “not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”
Trump previously praised the WHO on Feb. 24, tweeting: “CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Trump also praised China’s response. “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” Trump tweeted on Jan. 24. “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!”