At a Rose Garden press briefing held at the White House on the 29th May, President Trump declared that the USA would leave the World Health Organisation (WHO) and sever ties with the organization due to the manner in which it had dealt with China over the spread of Coronavirus.
In his address focused on China, the President was recorded saying “We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” However, he did not answer any questions following this statement.
Previously, on the 19th of May, in the midst of the annual meeting of the World Health Organisation, President Trump sent a letter to the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stating his views on how the organization favors China and has been its accomplice. The President gave WHO 30 days, asking it to “commit to major substantive improvements,” failing which the USA would leave the WHO. Although only 10 days have passed since his letter, it isn’t clear why Trump has decided not to wait until the stipulated time to make his decision to leave.
The President’s grievance is that the WHO has favored China in the country’s efforts to cover up the COVID-19 outbreak that eventually caused it to become a pandemic. He stated that the Organization had a role to play in misleading the world as it went along with the Chinese. Further, he blamed China for the pandemic and pointed fingers at the WHO for being an accomplice.
Will the USA leave WHO? Does the President have the sole authority to make this decision? These questions still remain. The decision to leave, especially in the middle of a pandemic, has been condemned by health experts of the country. “Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need,” commented the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Contributing to opinions on the matter, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mark Del Monte said “The decision to withdraw risks causing a surge in polio cases and an increase in deaths of children from malaria, and it will further delay life-saving vaccination campaigns.”
Whether or not President Trump has the authority to lead the USA to leave the WHO remains to be seen, but he does have the official capacity to terminate all funding towards the organization. The country has been the largest financial contributor to WHO; in 2018 and 2019 it had contributed a total of $900 million which is about a fifth of WHO’s budget for those years.