© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
US threatens to permanently stop funding WHO over alleged poor handling of COVID-19 pandemic
DONALD Trump, President of the United States, US, has threatened to permanently stop US donations to the World Health Organisation, WHO, over COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter posted on his Twitter handle, President Trump issued a 30-day deadline to the global health body to make adjustments or risk the loss of its biggest donor and US membership.
The U.S. is the largest single donor to WHO but owes nearly $200 million in arrears on its obligations to the health organisation when Trump suspended payments last month.
President Trump accused WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of poor handling of the pandemic, blaming the health body for publicising Chinese findings on the nature of the disease, but ignoring clear warnings about the dangers of the contagion.
“The World Health Organisation has repeatedly made claims about the coronavirus that was either grossly inaccurate or misleading,” a section of the letter reads.
With 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the US is one of the worst-hit countries which accounts for one-third of the world’s 4.8 million cases and has registered 90,000 deaths.
Trump stated that his decision could be reversed if WHO could backtrack on its alleged failings by demonstrating sufficient independence from China’s grip.
“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organisation is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China.
“My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organisation. But action is needed quickly,” Trump stated in the letter.
In response to Trump’s letter, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the U.S. president was “trying to mislead the public, smear China’s efforts and shift the blame of U.S. incompetence to others.”
Trump had quoted The Lancet medical journal in his letter to Tedros, mentioning the journal’s criticism of the WHO in the letter.
“The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from The Lancet medical journal,” Trump wrote.
In response, the U.K.-based journal issued a statement saying its first reports on the coronavirus were published on January 24, rather than December 2019 when reports of the outbreak emerged.
“This statement is factually incorrect. The Lancet published no report in December 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”
More than 50 WHO countries have co-sponsored a resolution calling for a review of WHO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic asking Tedros to begin an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation.”
Tedros had acknowledged that there were lapses in WHO’s response and welcomes a review of its procedures.
“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he said.
Tedros had invited both Trump and Xi Jinping, China’s President to speak on the first day of a two-day virtual assembly, in the hope of resolving differences between the two leaders on handling the outbreak, but Trump did not take part.