The latest target of attack for President Trump’s blame regarding response to COVID-19 is the World Health Organization (WHO). In a press conference yesterday, he said that failures and mistakes by the organization resulted in the virus spreading the way it has. Due to his beliefs, the President is contemplating placing a hold on the funding that the United States provides the WHO. During the press conference, it seemed as if the President was angry with the WHO for not having supporting him when he decided to restrict travel from China on January 31st.
The funding for the WHO comes from member countries around the world. The yearly budget for the organization is around $6 billion. The most recent figures (2019) show that the US provided almost $553 million, which accounts for roughly 10%. If the US stops or reduces their funding, it could cause major impacts on the WHO’s ability to complete their work around the world. On a global scale, this includes promoting primary healthcare, improving access to essential medicine and training healthcare workers. When a global health emergency arises, they help to identify threats and decrease risks. Those who support the WHO state that its influences over any individual government are limited and that it has done the best it can in dealing with emergency given its scope of power.
When looking at the response by the WHO, it has been involved monitoring the virus since the early days in January when it, and the rest of the world, first became aware that was a new virus infecting people. On January 30th, they declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). This came the day before the US secretary of health and human services declared our own public health emergency and several weeks before President Trump declared a national emergency, which took place on March 13th. By the time he did, there were at least 2,028 confirmed cases with 48 deaths in the US and over 137,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths globally.
Trump’s accusations against the WHO come as many public health officials have said that in action on his part has led to the virus taking hold in the US. Failure of getting testing out to those who needed it quickly and not having enough protective equipment in the national stockpile, are just two of the things that officials point to as reasons why. They claim that the Trump administration did not act soon enough and that it has had a significant impact on the number of cases in the US.
The President isn’t the only person criticizing the WHO’s response. Several other US government officials, mainly Republican senators, and other countries, like Japan, feel that the organization was too trusting of the Chinese government, which tried to conceal the initial outbreak. Critics say that the organization hasn’t done enough to push back on China for their mistakes and trying to conceal the virus. The critics point out that during the SARS epidemic the WHO called out the Chinese government for trying to conceal the outbreak by publicly criticizing them. In addition, the critics feel that the declaration of PHEIC didn’t happen soon enough.