With Trump announcing that the US will halt funding, China will be WHO’s biggest benefactor.

The United States is the biggest financial contributor to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to the organization’s assessments as of 31 March.

At $115.8 million, the US contribution to the WHO is the largest among the member-states. This is in spite of the Trump administration slashing the WHO funding in February’s budget proposal.

Following the United States is China, with a contribution amounting to $57.4 million, roughly half of that of the US.

Among the largest contributors are European countries — Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy. These four countries alone contributed an estimated $88 million, which is still below the assessed contribution of the US.

Things are about to change with a recent decision from President Trump.

Blame game

On April 14, President Trump announced that he ordered his administration to halt the funding for the WHO.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” President Trump claimed during a White House Briefing, pertaining to WHO.

He added that his administration would also conduct a review on whether or not WHO’s decisions led to the spread of the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics have pointed out that this move is a thinly veiled attempt to shift the blame of the coronavirus spread on the organization, which is under the United Nations (UN).

Right now, the United States is the jurisdiction which has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 842,624 as of April 23.

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The US president received huge criticism over his decisions throughout the course of the pandemic. He had constantly downplayed the impending crisis COVID-19 can cause in the early days of the outbreak.

He also repeatedly threw mud at China, calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”. China gladly returned the favor, at some point suggesting that the US army brought the pandemic to Wuhan.

The idea of a global pandemic response of these two rival countries seems to be a blame game.

Pandemic politics

WHO itself has been a subject of criticism in their pandemic response. Especially during the initial stages of the pandemic, it seems that the WHO has been submissive to China’s whims.

Taiwan had warned the WHO about the threat of COVID-19 as early as 31 December 2019, a whole month before the organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

This warning was only acknowledged by WHO but no further action was conducted in response.

Taiwan was even blocked out of the emergency meetings in spite of their quick response during the outbreak, something which has been happening since 2016 thanks to China’s attempts to limit Taiwan’s participation in the international scene. This pressure from China is also why Taiwan is still barred from membership in the WHO.

The WHO taking avoidant stance in politics when dealing with emergencies has left it vulnerable to the political wishes of those around it. By all means, the WHO has the authority to act as a corrective in the event that politics gets in the way of the interest of global health.

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus couldn’t have said it better when he said,  “This virus does not respect borders.”

The WHO should stop acting as if complying with the political interest of any country will help eliminate the virus plaguing the world.

The organization is not mandated to serve the political will of the powerful. The will of those in power is not necessarily convergent with what is good for public health.

Regardless of who holds the economic power and who funds the organization the most, WHO must not veer away from its mandate to protect the people during health emergencies and to provide them with better health.

 


Note: Article has been updated to reflect updated figures and total number of COVID-19 cases in the US.

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