Trump said that payments will be frozen for 60 to 90 days pending a review, after stating the organisation had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the outbreak.
Why is the US halting funding?
The US President made the decision to cut funding to the WHO over its handling of the health crisis.
He accused the global body of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus after it emerged in China, despite the fact it was declared a public health emergency on 30 January.
Mr Trump said the WHO must be held accountable for promoting “disinformation” about the virus following the initial outbreak in Wuhan, claiming it could have been contained at its source if the organisation had been better at investigating the early reports in China.
Speaking in a news conference at the White House on Tuesday (14 Apr), Mr Trump said: “I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organisation’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.
The WHO is yet to respond to Trump’s announcement, but UN Secretary Antoni Guterres said the international community should be uniting in solidarity to stop the virus.
In a statement, he said: “This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response.
“Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities.
“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.
“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time.
“As it is not that time, it is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.
Which countries help to fund the WHO?
The WHO is funded by a combination of members’ fees, based on wealth and population, and voluntary contributions, and it has 194 member states.
It relies on contributions from renowned scientists and medical professionals to inform its work, and is involved in vaccination campaigns, health emergencies and supporting countries in primary care.
The US is the largest single funder to the WHO and provided 15 per cent of its 2018-19 budget, with more than $400 million.
Aside from the US, the UK contributes the most funding of any other member states.
The following countries contributed the most funding to the WHO, according to financial figures from 2018:
- United States - $436.8 million
- United Kingdom - $318.7 million
- Germany - $240.5 million
- Japan - $134.7 million
- Kuwait - $94.2 million
- Sweden - $76.6 million
- Norway - $64.7 million
- Australia - $54.4 million
- Canada - $46.2 million
In March, the WHO launched an appeal for $675 million to help fight the pandemic and is now reported to be planning a fresh appeal for a further $1 billion.
Without contributions from the US, the WHO’s battle against the virus, including working towards a vaccine, will be significantly hindered.
Why has the WHO been criticised?
Mr Trump has accused the WHO of failing to adequately assess the virus outbreak when it emerged in Wuhan in January, claiming that if it had been more transparent about the situation in China, and brought more medical experts in, the virus could have been contained at its source “with very little death”.
He also questioned whether the generosity of the USA's contribution to the organisation had been put to the best possible use, and further criticised China’s initial response.
WHO experts were only permitted to visit China and investigate the outbreak on 10 February, by which point there were more than 40,000 confirmed cases in the country.
In mid-January, the WHO tweeted that preliminary investigations had found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus, but then corrected the statement a week later saying that such transmission did appear to be happening in Wuhan.
It has also come under fire for stating travel restrictions were not needed to stop the spread of the virus, on the same day it declared it a public health emergency.
This advice was eventually ignored by several countries, including the Trump administration the following day.
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