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Trump Threatens to Permanently End WHO Funding

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Trump Threatens to Permanently End WHO Funding

2020-05-20 11:13:18

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Image source: ITU Pictures via Wikimedia Commons)

Donald Trump is continuing to lash out at others for the response to the coronavirus pandemic instead of looking within. His most recent fall-guy is the World Health Organization. He is threatening to permanently pull funding for the investigation unless it makes "substantive improvements over the next 30 days."

Trump tweeted a letter he had sent to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He explained that "the only way forward" is if the organization "can actually demonstrate independence from China," another of Trump's fall-guys. 

Earlier, Trump blamed WHO for having done "a very sad job" and added that he was contemplating whether to cut the annual funding to WHO from $450 million to $40 million. "They gave us a lot of bad advice, terrible advice," he said. "They were wrong so much, always on the side of China."

Monday, WHO took calls from most of its member states, asking it to launch an independent investigation into how it conducted the international response to COVID-19. More than 300,000 people have been killed internationally, and the global economy has been decimated. 

A coalition of African, European, and other countries is seeking a "comprehensive evaluation" to review "lessons learned" from WHO's COVID-19 response.

This review would not go as far as looking into the controversial issues, such as the origin of the novel coronavirus. Trump has claimed he has proof it originated in a Wuhan lab while scientists insist all evidence shows it jumped from animals to humans. 

This week is the annual assembly for WHO. It's been eclipsed by the U.S. and China casting blame at each other. Trump has repeatedly said WHO helped China conceal the extent of COVID-19 in its early states. Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that Tedros should resign.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is looking for a frank discussion of why the virus "spun out of control." He explained, "There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives." He also claimed the U.S. has spent $9 billion to global containment efforts, just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country would give $2 billion for coronavirus efforts. 

Tedros announced he's planning on launching an independent evaluation of his organization's response "at the earliest appropriate moment," with findings being published on Monday by an oversight advisory body that was commissioned to probe the response by WHO.

The 11-page report questioned whether the warning system for the WHO to alert the world to outbreaks is adequate. It also suggested member states may need to "reassess" the role of WHO to provide travel advice. 

Tedros said in his opening remarks at the WHO annual meeting, he continues to look at the larger concerns that the pandemic has exposed, saying "we have been humbled by this very small microbe."

"This contagion exposes the fault lines, inequalities, injustices, and contradictions of our modern world," he added. "And geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief." 

China is trying to take the attention off what it might not have reported and when and is focusing on its efforts to slow the virus. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot suggested China's $2 billion pledge is "a token to distract from calls from a growing number of nations demanding accountability for the Chinese government's failure to meet its obligations."

He added that since China was "the source" of the  coronavirus pandemic, that it had "a special responsibility to pay more and give more." 

Xi said his country acted with "openness, transparency, and responsibility" when COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan. China gave all relevant data, including the virus's genetic sequence, to WHO and other countries "in a most timely fashion." He added that China has in recent weeks sent medical supplies to more than 50 African countries, and 46 Chinese medical teams are currently in Africa helping local officials.

Some world leaders — such as the presidents of France, South Korea, and South Africa, and Germany's chancellor — were supportive of WHO, while the European Union and other countries didn't show bias. 

Trump has ordered a temporary suspension of funding for WHO, pending a review of its early response to the pandemic. The advisory body said a review could hurt the organization's ability to respond to the virus. Xi supports a review of the WHO response and suggests it should be "based on science and professionalism, led by WHO, and conducted in an objective and impartial manner."

Tedros laid out WHO's response, noting it declared the outbreak a global health emergency on January 30 when there were fewer than 100 cases outside of China. Later, it warned there was a closing "window of opportunity" to prevent a global spread. 

During the first few months, WHO officials continued to describe the spread as "limited" and said it wasn't as transmissible as the flu. Experts have since said it spreads faster than the flu. WHO declared a pandemic on March 11 after thousands had been killed in many countries.

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