Dr. Frank Musmar
The World Health Organization (WHO) performed exceptionally poorly during the COVID-19 crisis, which was one of the greatest threats to global public health since the organization’s founding in 1946. It is high time that the WHO was reformed from the ground up. President Donald Trump is taking the first steps by threatening to pull all US funding from the organization, which has become beholden to China to such an extent that it either cannot or will not make independent decisions.
The US is the most significant single contributor to the World Health Organization (WHO). US taxpayer-funded contributions total approximately $2 billion—or roughly half—of the WHO’s budget.
On May 18, 2020, President Donald Trump launched a campaign in which he threatened to pull all US funding from the WHO. On May 29, he delivered a blistering attack on China, stating, “The world needs answers from China on COVID-19 virus. We must have transparency” and reiterating that the US would terminate its relationship with the WHO and halt its funding. “Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when Chinese authorities first discovered the virus,” Trump said.
President Trump expressed his decision in a letter he sent to WHO Director-General (D-G) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The letter said, “It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can demonstrate independence from China.”
Trump charges not only that the WHO is in China’s sway but that it ignored credible reports of the COVID-19 virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier. He objects to the WHO’s persistent wasteful spending, utter disregard for transparency, pervasive incompetence, and failure to adhere to basic democratic standards. He has also said that if the WHO had acted appropriately, he could have instituted a travel ban on people coming into the US from China sooner.
The WHO Constitution came into force on April 7, 1948. It states the organization’s primary objective as “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.” The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and wellbeing. The organization grossly failed to uphold its mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic.