US officials’ warnings against WHO funding cut leaked

By on 21/04/2020
The Trump administration has paused US funding for the World Health Organization pending a review into what it describes as the organisation’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. (Photo by Jernej Furman via flickr).

An internal memo written by US officials and addressed to secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned that cutting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) would erode America’s global standing, threaten US lives and damage global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trump announced on 14 April that US funding would be put on hold for 60-90 days pending a review “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”. The US is the largest single contributor to the WHO, providing it with US$400-500m a year in funding.

The memo, seen by ProPublica, was written by officials within the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs prior to Trump’s announcement. It includes details of how US funding to the WHO helps countries in the Middle East control the pandemic.

The memo said pausing US assistance to the WHO risks undermining “our ability to help host governments address urgent needs” and the “US narrative of a long-standing health leader, ceding ground” to China.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official with knowledge of the memo told ProPublica that it was probably written so that Pompeo could justify waiving parts of Trump’s order and allow funding to the WHO to continue. However, the memo seen by ProPublica is an unfinished, draft version and is it unclear whether a final version was sent to Pompeo.  

Accusations abound

A fact sheet issued by the White House says that the WHO “has failed” American taxpayers and that they “deserve better”. It accuses the WHO of showing “a dangerous bias” towards the Chinese government, lists what it sees as the organisation’s errors, and says that it “was not prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to a severe infectious disease crisis like this”.

It adds that “longstanding structural issues must be addressed before the organization can be trusted again”. It says Trump will redirect global health aid “to others directly engaged in the fight” against coronavirus, though it has not yet announced who these beneficiaries are.

International criticism

Trump has faced criticism for his decision to pause WHO funding from international experts.

Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, wrote that the president’s decision is “a crime against humanity… every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity”.

Meanwhile Laurie Garrett, a former senior fellow of the Council of Foreign Relations, said in a tweet that the decision is “damnable”, “reprehensible” and a “spiteful Trump act carried out by an endless White House blame game”. She described the WHO as the only lifeline for most African, Latin American and Asia Pacific nations, and said the decision could cost thousands of lives.

The WHO has come under fire over some aspects of its handling of the pandemic, with criticisms that it was too deferential to China following the country’s early suppression of information and punishment of whistleblowers. In a 14 January tweet, the WHO said that “preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. However, WHO briefed the press on the same day that human-to-human transmission was a strong possibility given experience of past coronavirus outbreaks, and urged suitable precautions.

At a virtual G7 summit last week, leaders expressed strong support for the WHO and urged international cooperation.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

3 Comments

  1. P.A.

    22/04/2020 at

    i should have known it would be Mia Hunt again. The WHO is unfortunately become a captured tool of Global criminal Corporations used to their financial gains. The head of the WHO is a essentially a war criminal himself.

    The WHO is not interested in the health of humans. They are more concerned with benefiting (monetarily) from controlling the flow of money and pushing the agenda big pharma.

    Please stop Mia Hunt from publishing.

  2. JR McLane

    23/04/2020 at

    I agree with P.A. The WHO can not be beholding to communist countries like China where human rights and the freedom of Religion are not respected.

  3. MarkyMarrk NZ

    24/04/2020 at

    Oh please PA and JR McLane you are giving me the giggles.The USA is becoming the laughing stock of the world, if we are not crying.
    Also Vladimir told me, the agreed rubles will be deposited in your bank accounts and your complementary MAGA gear are being couriered to you now.
    On a more serious note, the majority of the article is reporting the views of credible voices in world health, most notably the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal. PS China, the WHO and the US govt should be held accountable for its actions at an appropriate point in time.

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