Trump accused of ‘short-sighted, hypocritical’ move by stopping WHO funding
Donald Trump’s decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organisation over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been condemned by UK experts.
The US president accused the international body of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus.
Mr Trump said the administration would suspend funding of up to £400 million (500 million US dollars) a year for the organisation.
He said US taxpayers are the largest contributors to the WHO, dwarfing the amount paid by China.
Mr Trump claimed the WHO had made a “disastrous” decision to oppose travel restrictions from China but the president said his actions in ignoring that advice had saved “untold numbers of lives”.
But scientists railed against Mr Trump’s actions and stressed the need for international co-operation in tackling Covid-19.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “Politically volatile leadership is rarely constructive or helpful at times of crisis.”
The USA has provided 77% of coronavirus research investment, he said.
“The WHO role is more taking new knowledge from research and creating policy, guidance, and surveillance,” Dr Head said.
“But if the USA acts provocatively over global health and biosecurity, it will become a very big problem.
“The effects would be seen worldwide, but also rebounding back on to the USA where high-threat pathogens would be more likely to occur in future.”
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine, said: “This most recent intervention in public health policy by President Trump is perhaps one of the least productive, most short-sighted, self-motivated and hypocritical acts I have ever witnessed.
“As far as I can ascertain, it has no foundation in reality.
“I suspect this move has the support of precisely 0% of the US scientific and healthcare communities, and, I would hope, only a small minority of the population as a whole.
“The situation in the US and the world over amounts to a crisis, and one in which we must stand together. WHO is perhaps one of the best means of achieving this and deserves the support and respect of all countries.”
David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – and previously a senior figure at the WHO – said: “By bringing experts from all countries together informally and through its independent advisory groups WHO is a trusted source of information about the Covid-19 pandemic, and this information is being made available to all countries as they do their own risk assessments and develop their own prevention and control strategies.
“I have no doubt that WHO will continue to work in this manner during the Covid-19 pandemic as a reliable and trusted source of information and guidance to countries around the world.”
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This pandemic has exposed our international interdependence like never before.
“The right response is more, not less, co-operation.
“International institutions will only ever succeed with progressive global leadership, not cynically trying to shift the blame.”
There has not yet been an official response from the UK Government.
But Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy leader and foreign minister, tweeted that Mr Trump’s decision was “indefensible”.
“So many vulnerable populations rely on @WHO – deliberately undermining funding & trust now is shocking,” he wrote.
“Now is a time for global leadership & unity to save lives, not division and blame!”