US President Donald Trump on Tuesday made good his threat to halt US funding to the World Health Organization in the ake of accusation regarding the agency’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump said the funding — about 15 per cent of what WHO gets from donor countries — would be on hold for 60 to 90 days pending a review of the Health agency’s warnings about the coronavirus and China.
Trump has in recent weeks accused WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus threat.
Trump further accused the global health’s body of collaborating with China in creating disinformation regarding the coronavirus epidemic.
“The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump told a White House news conference on Tuesday.
His action has, as expected, attracted sharp criticisms from infectious disease experts around the world.
China on Wednesday said US decision to freeze the funding is seriously concerning.
Nearly two million people globally have been infected and more than 124,000 have died since the disease emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15 per cent of its budget.
EARLIER PLAN TO SLASH FUNDING
However, in what would be using the current health crisis to pass blame, the Trump administration was already eyeing steep cuts to global health funds in its 2021 budget proposal, slashing more than $3 billion in overall programmes as early as February, just weeks after WHO announce Covid-19 as a global pandemic.
The cuts included half of its annual funding to the WHO.
In a report by the Foreign Policy on February 10, legislators from the House and Senate appropriations committees pressed officials from the State Department and USAID at a briefing on February 7 previewing the budget to explain why it made sense to scale back spending at a time when the world is facing a global health pandemic.
Top lawmakers quickly slapped down the budget proposal, indicating Congress could reject the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to foreign aid and the State Department as it has in years past on a bipartisan basis, FP reported.
“Like the President’s previous budgets, this year’s request is a waste of the paper it’s printed on,” Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“Proposing such reckless cuts to our critical foreign policy tools isn’t a serious proposal.”
But what would point to a push by the US to be a global hegemony since Trump took over, senior administration officials said they were allocating new resources, including an additional $15 million for the USAID Global Health Security Programme, to fight the coronavirus,
“The budget protects against infectious disease threats at home and abroad, by bolstering country capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks and to prevent epidemics from reaching our borders,” Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told reporters at a briefing.
“It also allows us to provide the necessary flexibility to respond to emerging global health threats, such as the novel coronavirus and Ebola.”
In the last three years, Trump administration’s budget proposals have drastically slashed parts of the United States’ overall annual contributions to the US, which fell from $10 billion (or a fifth of the U.N.’s operating budget) in 2016 to a requested $1 billion for the Department of State’s Contributions to International Organizations budget, Pacific Standard reported in March 2019.
At the time, the White House requested $0 for the International Organizations and Programs budget line item, according to a UN Dispatch report.
So far, Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2017, abandoned the INF Treaty that helped end the ballistic- and cruise-missile arms race of the Cold War, and has repeatedly threatened to leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In April 2017, the State Department announced it was ending funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP), the international body’s agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.
In September 2019, Trump attacked globalism in his address to UN General Assembly, saying the ‘future belongs to patriots, not globalists.