Back in April, when the world had only started taking the Coronavirus pandemic seriously, US President Donald Trump blamed the World Health Organisation for incompetence.
He alleged that the pioneer health organization had failed in obtaining the data about the virus from China and had threatened to cut US funding to them. Currently, the funding from the US accounts for a whopping 15% of the total funding that the WHO gets.
Trump had tweeted in April:
“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look.”
The Trump administration also alleged that the WHO has been partial for China and has “made the disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other countries—despite applauding travel restrictions within China itself—leading to further spread of the virus internationally.”
On Monday, 6th July 2020, the Trump administration took action. In a shocking move, the US government sent a letter notifying their withdrawal from the WHO to the US Secretary-General, who is also the depository for the World Health Organisation.
This letter marks the beginning of the country’s withdrawal from the WHO. The whole process will be completed by July 2021.
According to the amendments made by the US in 1948, when it first joined the WHO, all countries need to notify the UN Secretary-General about their withdrawal at least one year in advance and pay off all membership dues during that time. Currently, the US owes approximately $190 million to the WHO.
The decision, having emerged amid a widespread pandemic, especially in the US, has not been received positively in the country. Politicians from both the major political parties in the US have criticized the decision, along with officials working in the current government.
Where Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker has called the decision “an act of true senselessness”, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who is also the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee said, “If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen.”
The American Medical Association also opposed this move with their statement, “The Trump administration’s official withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the health of our country at grave risk.
“… [W]e join in strong opposition to this decision, which is a major setback to science, public health, and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19.”
In another letter to the Congress, some 750 experts in global law and health have pointed out that the decision “will likely cost lives, American and foreign”, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Another law professor at an American University, Lindsay Wiley pointed out that while the US may be leading the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, “our vaccine manufacturing capabilities within the U.S. are limited, to withdraw from the organization at this stage in the crisis, when we’re on the cusp of developing a safe and effective vaccine and thinking about how to distribute it, would be a dire mistake”.