The United States President Trump criticized the World Health Organization yesterday and threatened to withdraw funding for the international organization. He accused the organization of falling under the influence of China and failing to label Covid-19 a pandemic at the time it should have.
During a briefing at the White House, President Trump twice stated that his government funds the majority of the World Health Organization’s budget.
According to official records made available by the WHO, the United States provided 14.67% of its funding in 2018-2019; which some critics believe does not amount to ‘majority’.
Others are of the opinion that the president is right to highlight the huge amount of funding the country provided WHO.
The U.S. is the single largest contributor to the WHO. Its assessed contribution is 22% of the total members' assessed contributions. The U.S. pays considerably more than the assessed contributions in additional voluntary contributions. That 22% assessed contribution has been stable for many years, but the voluntary contributions have fluctuated depending on health crises and U.S. political priorities.
President Trump criticized the WHO for what he said was a slow response to the Covid-19 crisis, and repeatedly said the organization has been "China-centric." He complained that the WHO "receives vast amounts of money from the United States" and that the organization "called it wrong."
"They could have called it months earlier," he said. "They would have known and they should have known and they probably did not. So we'll be looking into that very carefully."
Trump at one point said "we're gonna put a hold on money spent to the WHO," before backtracking later in the briefing and saying "we're going to take a look at it."
When asked what he meant by calling the WHO "China-centric"; the president said:
"I don't know, they seem to come down on the side of China," Trump replied.
“'Don't close your borders to China,' they don't report what's really going on. They didn't see it, and yet they were there, they didn't see what was going on in Wuhan. They didn't see it. How do you not see it? They didn't report it. They must have seen it, but they didn't report it."
Critics and socio-political commentators have been analyzing how the development may affect Africa when carried out. The WHO has been the most prominent global organization leading the strategy to stem the spread of epidemics and the novel coronavirus.
Some critics believe that the significance of the organization especially in assisting African nations cannot be overemphasized. They claim that reduced funding for the organization will lead to more deaths from Covid-19 in Africa because the majority of the healthcare systems in the continent are substandard.
Speaking on how it has helped African nations in battling Covid-19, a spokesperson for the organization said:
“We have worked hard, with the support of our headquarters and in partnership with many other organizations, including the African Union, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and other UN agencies, to support [African] countries. First, early on in preparation we carried out a significant amount of training for healthcare workers in surveillance, case management and laboratory diagnostics. Some capacity has also been built through WHO training.
“We have also helped our member states develop national response plans. I believe almost all member states have now developed a plan, which is central to their being able to mobilize the resources needed for a good state of readiness and to enable them to respond should they have COVID-19 cases. We have sent about 80 experts from WHO to 30 countries.”
Others believe otherwise though, claiming that the organization has been at the centre of various conspiracy theories that involve around testing vaccines and drugs on Africans.
In the abstract of a paper by a renowned medical researcher, Dr Irmgard Bauer published in March 2017, she says:
“It has been argued that much of international medical volunteering [and aid] is done for the wrong reasons, in that local people serve as a means to meet volunteers’ needs, or for the right reasons but ignorance and ill-preparedness harm the intended beneficiaries, often without volunteers’ grasp of the damage caused.
“The literature on ethical concerns in medical volunteering has grown tremendously over the last years highlighting the need for appropriate guidelines. These same concerns, however, and an appreciation of the reasons why current aid paradigms are flawed, can serve as indicators on how to change existing practices to ensure a better outcome for those who are in need of help. Such paradigm change envisages medical assistance in the spirit of solidarity, social justice, equality, and collegial collaboration.”
Some top analysts, however, believe that since the United States benefits immensely from the WHO in pandemic control and public health regulations, the president’s ‘unguarded statements’ should not be taken seriously.
What are your thoughts?