Trump stunned health care professionals, fellow members of the United Nations and American citizens alike once again on April 14 with a baffling announcement that he would halt funding to the World Health Organization.
“Today, I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess [its] role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump stated at the briefing.
Coming from a president who failed to take advice from health care professionals and communicate the severity of this dangerous virus, this announcement is alarmingly hypocritical. In the initial — and arguably most crucial ?— weeks of the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, Trump repeatedly downplayed its dangers and spoke against the precautions from health care professionals. Even after WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, Trump was still referring to it as “the flu.”
This behavior follows Trump’s pattern of refusing to accept fault. His incessant finger-pointing and blaming has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if his claims were true, now is not the time to be petty and vindictive; it’s not time to attack the very institutions put in place to handle a global issue such as this. Even if WHO failed to act quickly enough and call out China’s lack of transparency, it is not helpful to hinder its power or resources.
Even if Trump truly has a problem with this organization, it would be more practical to wait to halt funding until we are no longer in the midst of a global pandemic.
To add to the confusion and inconsistency of Trump’s statements, in late February, Trump applauded WHO for “working hard and very smart.”
The President’s fellow G-7 leaders chastised his decision, stressing the importance of multilateral cooperation.
“President Trump is trying to rewrite history to divert criticism from his own administration’s failures. Lives will be lost as a result,” Adam Kamradt Scott, an associate professor specializing in global health security at the University of Sydney, said an interview with Time Magazine.
This decision is not only bad for the fate of the U.S. It also severely damages WHO’s ability to provide aid on a global scale. The U.S. is by far WHO’s single largest contributor, which means that this loss prevents the organization from accomplishing many necessary tasks. It also leaves other members of the U.N., as well as privately funded organizations, scrambling to fill in the funding gaps.
In 2019, the money given by the U.S. made up roughly 15% of WHO’s annual budget.
In the two-year budget cycle of 2018 and 2019, the U.S. pledged to contribute $237 million in dues and an additional $656 million in voluntary contribution. At a total of $893 million, the U.S. out-contributed the second-highest donor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, by $362 million.
This action further depicts the corrosive and hawkish nationalism that Trump perpetuates and encourages. The U.S. historically has been viewed as an international health leader. This means that Trump’s decision to halt funding not only harms the reputation of the U.S. but also WHO’s national and international ability to fight the virus.
While funding will possibly be redirected to the effort of stopping COVID-19, there is not much of a better option for funding to be redirected to that could yield better or equal results. For many countries with weaker health sectors, WHO is by far the best and strongest hope to provide necessary and effective aid.
This callous decision reveals Trump’s impulsive actions, irrational thought processes, poor communication skills and a lack of consistency. These factors will likely slow the speed and effectiveness of the handling of this health crisis on a global scale.
Trump’s rash and impetuous actions will most likely have tangible and direct ramifications on a global scale, and he doesn’t seem to know or care.