Donald Trump has revealed that he has instructed his staff to temporarily halt funding to the World Health Organisation over what he perceived as poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US President said the World Health Organisation had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable” as the crisis continues to grip the world.
Trump according to the report obtained from Evening Standard, in his White House briefing, said the World Health Organisation had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
Payments to the World Health Organisation will be suspended pending a review of its warnings about COVID-19 and China, the US leader said on Tuesday.
The US is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million (£316m) in 2019, roughly 15 per cent of its budget.
The hold on funding was expected. Mr Trump has been increasingly critical of the organisation as the global health crisis has continued, and he has reacted angrily to criticism of his administration’s response.
Announcing the move, Mr Trump said “there was credible” information in December to suspect human-to-human transmission and the WHO did not respond appropriately.
“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” Mr Trump said.
But the president said the US would continue to engage with the organisation in pursuit of what he called meaningful reforms.
The decision drew immediate condemnation.
American Medical Association President Dr Patrice Harris called it “a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating Covid-19 easier” and urged Mr Trump to reconsider.
Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who heads the U.S. House of Representatives Committee that sets government spending, said Mr Trump was making a mistake.
“The coronavirus cannot just be defeated here in the United States, it has to be defeated in every conceivable location throughout the world,” she said in a statement.
Mr Trump had earlier threatened to cease sending US funds to the WHO, claiming that the international body “missed the call” on the pandemic.
He said the organisation was “very China-centric” in its approach, seemingly suggesting that the WHO had gone along with Beijing’s efforts months ago to minimise the severity of the outbreak.
The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though there has been reason to believe that more people died of Covid-19 than the country’s official tally.
“They should have known and they probably did know,” Mr Trump had said of WHO officials.
When he previously threatened to cut funds, Mr Trump backtracked and said he would “strongly consider” it.
Senior WHO officials pushed back at Mr Trump’s calls to withhold funding from the organisation.
“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic, so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO regional director for Europe, told a virtual briefing last week in response to a question about Mr Trump’s remarks.
WHO director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added: “We shouldn’t waste time pointing fingers. We need time to unite … Let’s unite … The worst is yet to come if we don’t rush to ensure unity.”