The US quitting WHO is a “non-starter” and “literally a whim of one man”

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Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr

The President of the United States Donald Trump has announced America is quitting WHO because the world health body has failed to adequately respond to the pandemic and because China has “total control” over it. But how far is it plausible or even possible?

Earlier this month, Trump wrote a letter to the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus to make “substantiative improvements” in handling the pandemic or else risk losing millions of US funds. Even before writing the four-page letter, Trump administration temporarily held funding the Geneva-based body over propagating “China’s disinformation” allegation.

Speaking from the White House’s Rose garden, on Friday, the US president said betting his decision to quit the 194-member organization stating: “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, 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.”

“It’s the wrong type of action to be taking in the middle of a pandemic”

Trump primarily accused the WHO over being China’s puppets since the Pandemic broke out. He said “China has total control” over WHO despite the US annually sending $400 million in contrast to China’s $40 million net donations.

The US formally joined the World Health body in 1948. The move to quit comes while tensions are growing between Beijing and China, Reuters notes. A 1984 joint-resolution of Congress on the US membership with WHO states the nation reserves the right to withdraw in a one year notice. But the move is still questionable.

Earlier in the letter sent to the WHO Director-General, he told: “I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization, that in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interest.”


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WHO is yet to respond to the media’s request for comment. However, this move is being seen as a morally immature decision to quit a global-health body in times of crisis like this, that too on a claim without any proven evidence.

“From a symbolic or moral standpoint, it’s the wrong type of action to be taking in the middle of a pandemic and seems to deflect responsibility for what we in the U.S. failed to do and blame the WHO,” Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Reuters.

Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights told Reuters that is must be noted WHO is a platform for international cooperation. “Walking away from this critical institution in the midst of a historic pandemic will hurt people both in the United States and around the world.”

Global Responsibilities

The New York Times notes Trump in his 10-min long speech declaring the departure from WHO took no responsibility for the 100,000 lives lost in the US, and all the while accusing China of “instigating a global pandemic.”

The media states there is no evidence that WHO or Beijing deliberately doing something to put the spread of the pandemic under the carpet. Furthermore, Trump’s constant banter on WHO and China is being seen as a way to shroud his administration’s frayed efforts to handle the pandemic in the US.

Last month, when the WHO Director-General was asked for a comment on the US accusation of WHO being China-centric, he told “I am sure we are not China-centric. The truth is, if we are going to be blamed, it is right to blame us for being U.S.-centric.”

The US quitting WHO is a “non-starter” and “literally a whim of one man” ( Image courtesy of United Nations via Unsplash)5

US health body like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has severely criticized the move arguing the US has helped create WHO, reflecting back to since 1984 the CDC has worked with the organization. “Turning our back on the W.H.O. makes us and the world less safe,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former CDC director told the New York Times. The Infectious Diseases Society of America also disendows Trump’s movement.

Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National & Global Health Law at The Georgetown University Law Center, Lawrence O. Gostin, commenting on the development told this decision is “a non-starter” and “this is literally a whim of one man, without any consultation with Congress, in the middle of the greatest health emergency of our lifetime.”

Reuters notes that the Trump administration has long hated multilateralism and focused on the AmericFirst” agenda. The United States, since under Trump administration has withdrawn itself from a number of multilateral efforts like the U.N. cultural agency, the U.N. Human Rights Council, Iran nuclear deal, the U.N. population fund among others.

(Cover Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr)