“We regret the decision of the president of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organization,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, at a news briefing.
President Trump announced yesterday that he had decided to suspend funding to the WHO. Trump blames the WHO for what he called a lackluster response to the coronavirus.
“The United States of America has been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO and we hope it will continue to be so,” Tedros added.
Tedros said the WHO is “assessing” the impact on its funding and “we will try to fill any gaps with partners.”
He declined to provide more details on the impact, citing an assessment that needs to take place.
According to Trump, the U.S. is putting a halt to the $400 million to $500 million it provides each year to the WHO, which has a total biennial budget of about $6 billion.
He blamed the organization for opposing travel bans, like the one he imposed on travelers from China, and said it lacked transparency and relied on assurances from the Chinese.
Trump’s decision drew swift condemnation from Democrats and health groups, some of whom said Trump was simply looking for a scapegoat for his own slow response to the virus while acknowledging an imperfect response from the WHO.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday Trump’s move is “dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”
President Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization is meeting with outrage from business groups, Democrats, foreign leaders, and health groups. They say he is jeopardizing the global response to the pandemic.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, usually an ally of Republicans, said Trump’s action cut 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.
The move sparked swift international criticism as well.
“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.”