US President Donald Trump’s decision to stop funding to the World Health Organization has prompted global condemnation with many governments, including China, calling it a rash response that could seriously imperil the fight against COVID-19.Trump on April 15 officially announced to halt funding to the UN body accusing it of depending on unreliable Chinese data and disseminating “false information about transmission and mortality that led to a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide.“We have deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he announced a halt to WHO funding. The pandemic has killed over 125,000 people and infected nearly two million since it originated in China late last year. It also threatened the livelihoods of billions of people as nations imposed lockdowns to curb its spread, sending the global economy into a tailspin.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to reduce resources for the WHO. “Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he said.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “This decision weakens the WHO’s capability and harms international cooperation.”EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter: “Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever.”German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter, “The virus knows no borders,” and apportioning blame did not help.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the WHO was essential to tackling the pandemic. “At a time like this when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that,” she said. “We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions.”Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathised with Trump’s criticisms of the WHO, especially its “unfathomable” support of re-opening China’s “wet markets”, where freshly slaughtered, and live, animals are sold.
“But that said, the WHO also as an organisation does a lot of important work including here in our region in the Pacific and we work closely with them,” Morrison told a radio station. John Sawers, the former head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, said China concealed crucial information about the outbreak from the rest of the world and that it would be better to hold China responsible rather than the WHO.A US official told Reuters that Trump made the move despite opposition from within his administration, especially from top health advisers.
The US is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing $400 million last year, which constituted 15% of its budget.US health advocacy group Protect Our Care said Trump’s WHO funding withdrawal was “a transparent attempt … to distract from his history downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis and his administration’s failure to prepare our nation”.“To be sure, the World Health Organization is not without fault but it is beyond irresponsible to cut its funding at the height of a global pandemic,” said Leslie Dach, who chairs the group.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund said that the “Great Lockdown” would spark the worst global downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF said the global economy is expected to shrink by three percent this year, and the US economy is expected to contract by 5.9 percent.“Much worse growth outcomes are possible and maybe even likely,” it said. IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said that in 2020 and 2021, global GDP could slip by three percent or about $9 trillion — “greater than the economies of Japan and Germany combined.” But if the virus is contained and economies can begin operating again, 2021 should see a rebound of 5.8 percent, the Fund added.
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