US President Donald Trump has cut funding for the World Health Organization, insisting the agency be held accountable for its ‘failures’ in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, and accusing it of promoting ‘Chinese disinformation’.
“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the … organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House briefing on Tuesday, adding that the US has a “duty to insist on full accountability” from the public health body.
Arguing the world health body “failed to obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion,” the president said the agency kept vital data under wraps in the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic for fear of offending authorities in Beijing.
The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.
Trump first floated the idea of halting the WHO’s funding last week, accusing the organization of being “China-centric” and vowing to place a “very powerful hold” on funds while the administration assessed its response to the crisis. The US is the WHO’s top contributor, giving between $400 and $500 million each year, but the president said there were now “deep concerns” that the money has gone to waste.
The WHO and Beijing maintain that their response to the pandemic has been appropriate and timely, with both releasing timelines detailing their actions step-by-step beginning in late December. Chinese officials have also repeatedly denied accusations of a “cover up,” insisting health authorities worked with the international community from the very beginning to understand and contain the outbreak in Wuhan.
Addressing President Trump’s previous threat to pull WHO’s funding, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged him not to “politicize the virus,” warning it would only result in “many more body bags.”
WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland © Reuters / Denis Balibouse