Trump threatens to permanently end funding if WHO doesn't show 'independence from China' in 30 days

Trump threatens to permanently end funding if WHO doesn't show 'independence from China' in 30 days
President Donald Trump and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump has told the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) that he would permanently end all funding to the organization if it did not commit to significant improvements within the next 30 days, according to a copy of a letter he posted to Twitter late Monday night.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the WHO is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China. My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organization. But action is needed quickly. We do not have time to waste,” says the letter addressed to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.

“That is why it is my duty, as President of the United States, to inform you that, if the WHO does not commit to substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of US funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization. I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present time, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” says Trump in the letter.

Trump had halted the US contributions to the WHO last month, claiming that the organization had mishandled the coronavirus outbreak as it emerged in China. Screenshots of the four-page letter on the official White House letterhead were posted on Trump’s official twitter account.

The letter said an investigation by the Trump Administration reveals that the WHO consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019, or even earlier. It alleges that the WHO failed to independently investigate credible reports that “conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within itself.”

“Even after you belatedly declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, you failed to press China for timely admittance of a WHO team of international medical experts. As a result, this critical team did not arrive in China until two weeks later, on February 16, 2020. And even then, the team was not allowed to visit Wuhan until the final days of their visit. Remarkably, the WHO was silent when China denied the two American members of the team access to Wuhan entirely,” the letter states. 

The threats come at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has killed over 318,530 globally, and over 90,350 in the US. As of May 19, more than 4,805,000 Covid-19 cases have been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. 

In his letter to the WHO, Trump alleges that the repeated missteps by organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. (Getty Images)

Trump’s letter also criticizes Dr Ghebreyesus for praising China’s strict domestic travel restrictions, but that the agency was “inexplicably against my closing of the US border, or the ban, with respect to people coming from China.” “I put the ban in place regardless of your wishes. Your political craftsmanship on this issue was deadly, as other governments, relying on your comments, delayed imposing life-saving restrictions on travel to and from China,” alleges the letter. It says, “Incredibly, on February 3, 2020, you reinforced your position, opining that because China was doing such a great job protecting the world from the virus, travel restrictions were “causing more harm than good.” Yet by then, the world knew that, before locking down Wuhan, Chinese authorities had allowed more than five million people to leave the city and that many of these people were bound for international destinations all over the world.”

Trump’s letter says that throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the WHO has been “curiously insistent” on praising China for its alleged transparency and that Dr Ghebreyesus has also consistently “joined in these tributes, notwithstanding that China has been anything but transparent.”

The letter accuses China of ordering samples of the virus in early January to be destroyed, depriving the world of critical information. “Even now, China continues to undermine the International health Regulations by refusing to share accurate and timely data, viral samples and isolates, and by withholding vital information about the virus and its origins. To this day, China continues to deny international access to their scientists and relevant facilities, all while casting blame widely and recklessly, and censoring its own experts,” it says. 

Trump says that the WHO failed to publicly call on China to allow for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus. The letter emphasizes that worse than all these failings, is that “we know that the WHO could have done so much better.” The letter compares Dr Ghebreyesus’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic with the ‘bold’ response by a former Director-General of the WHO, Dr Harlem Brundtland, in 2003 during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China.  It says that she boldly declared the WHO’s first emergency travel advisory in 55 years, recommending against travel to and from the disease epicenter in southern China. “She also did not hesitate to criticize China for endangering global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistleblowers and censoring media. Many lives could have been saved had you followed Dr Brundtland’s example,” the letter emphasizes.

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