Criticizing President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to end funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) as reckless, Democratic members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs called on the president to restore funding and to stop putting COVID-19 blame on the organization.
Chairman Eliot Engel and his colleagues stated grave concerns over Trump’s recent actions. COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge for the entire international community, they recognized, and while the WHO has made its share of mistakes, the organization as a whole plays a vital role in supporting and enforcing international health regulations, education, strengthening health systems and preventing, detecting and responding to outbreaks.
“The organization is not perfect, and we should thoroughly review its early handling of this crisis, particularly its engagement with Chinese authorities, and advocate for appropriate reforms,” the committee members said. “But let’s be clear: mistakes made by the WHO do not justify your halt in funding; nor do they excuse the serious failures of your Administration in confronting this pandemic. Indeed, had your administration worked more closely with the organization in the early stages of this crisis, it may have helped reduce the massive outbreak we’ve seen in this country.”
To date, Johns Hopkins University reports that nearly 1 million people in the United States have been infected by COVID-19, of which more than 56,000 have died. For weeks, the United States has been the epicenter of the worldwide pandemic. Still, Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO earlier this month after accusing it of being China-centric and pledging a review of the organization.
With all that in mind, the committee members blasted the administration’s failure to participate in global efforts, as seen in leaving the U.S. seat on the WHO Executive Board empty since 2018, and dismissed that point in particular as an “astonishing abdication of American leadership” during times of crisis. Further, if Trump’s concerns were China, they noted that such moves only made it easier for China to exert influence, not harder.
“Halting funding to the WHO at this time is like cutting funding to the fire department in the middle of a blaze,” the representatives wrote. “Retreating from global health institutions at this time will only hinder our ability to fight the Coronavirus, thus putting our national security and American lives at risk. Consequently, we urge you in the strongest possible terms to immediately restore funding for the WHO and take all other necessary steps to confront this pandemic.”
To continue current policies, in their opinion, would not just be misguided — but an attempt to scapegoat others from a mismanaged and politicized U.S. response to the pandemic.