The United States, United Kingdom, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are the top supporters. U.S. contributions come to US$450 million a year — US$115 million is in mandatory dues — towards WHO’s more than US$4 billion budget, according to WHO budget figures.
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Melinda Gates said. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19, and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever.”
Democratic National Committee statement on Pres Trump Halting WHO Funding: "Trump is willing to put global health further at risk to try to deflect blame from his own failures. But the American people know the truth: It was Trump who ignored warnings for months." pic.twitter.com/VKtIa9DHoo
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 14, 2020
Winning the ‘war’ on COVID-19
As the top financial contributor to the United Nations, the United States pays 22 percent of the world body’s operating costs and a quarter of its peacekeeping. Trump proposed huge cuts for international organizations including 53 percent less for WHO and 75 percent less for the Pan American Health Organization, which gets most of its support from Brazil.
On March 25, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Trump administration for doing a “great job” responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, despite its slow and confused reaction to the pandemic. The United States now has more than 600,000 confirmed cases and 26,000 reported deaths, the most of any nation.
Two weeks later, Tedros began to push back as Trump made clear he was scapegoating WHO and threatening budget cuts. Trump assailed WHO for being “China-centric” and claimed it had criticized his ban on travelers arriving in the U.S. from China.
“Please don’t politicize this virus. It exploits the differences you have at the national level,” Tedros told a news briefing last week. “If you want to be exploited, and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”
Trump has not been alone in his criticism of the U.N. health agency, which has seemed to take in stride China’s reported infections and deaths. Other governments, particularly in Europe, also questioned WHO’s recommendations on travel restrictions and face masks.
WHO repeatedly warned about the emergence of the virus, though it bore some criticism for waiting until March 11 to declare COVID-19 as a global pandemic — the worldwide spread of a new disease — marking the first time a coronavirus had that distinction.
In late January, Trump praised China as the virus outbreak was spreading. “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” he tweeted. “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said WHO is on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, and now is not the time for its biggest financial contributor to halt funding. “It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19,” he said.
The American Medical Association called on Trump to restore WHO’s funding.
“During the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the World Health Organization is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier,” AMA President Patrice Harris said. “Cutting funding to the WHO rather than focusing on solutions is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world.”