Wednesday, 19 January, 2022
HomeTalk PointWill Trump's WHO attack hurt global health readiness or much-needed wake-up call?

Will Trump’s WHO attack hurt global health readiness or much-needed wake-up call?

US President Donald Trump has stopped US funding to the WHO accusing it of mismanagement and being too China-centric.

Text Size:

President Donald Trump has stopped US funding to the WHO—the only international nodal health body at the centre of fight against Covid-19—accusing it of mismanagement and being too China-centric. WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he regretted the US’ decision. Bill Gates, whose Foundation is the second-biggest donor to the WHO, called Trump’s decision “as dangerous as it sounds” and announced an extra $150 million funding as part of Covid response. 

ThePrint asks: Will Trump’s WHO attack hurt global health readiness or much-needed wake-up call?

Trump’s decision to halt funding is unfortunate, not the right time to blame WHO

K. Sujatha Rao
Former union health secretary

This is not the right time to blame the World Health Organization — WHO — when every country is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. It is the only international agency that has the power to convene and coordinate nation states on public health actions related to this pandemic.

It also has a significant role to play in finalising standardised treatment protocols and strategies to tackle this virus, about which so little is known. More importantly, in the event of a vaccine being discovered, it won’t be the Trump administration but rather WHO that will act as a convening body to lobby for this vaccine to be treated as a public good.

For these reasons I don’t believe there is an alternative to WHO. One can reform or amend it or change its leadership architecture but WHO as an institution must remain, more so now to fight the coronavirus crisis. In this respect, Trump’s decision to halt funding to WHO is unfortunate and discouraging.

It is especially unfortunate that President Trump has chosen this time to attack the WHO when it was perhaps his administration that was slow to respond to the crisis brewing in the country, downplaying the seriousness and urgency of the situation. His early judgements were inaccurate and have cost the country a lot in terms of lives lost.

While the timing of President Trump’s attack may be wrong, WHO is also not blameless. Despite reports about the spread of the virus in China in December, it only declared Covid-19 a pandemic as late as 11 March. A more rapid response would have been useful.

Trump’s action firm, only viable alternative to putting Tedros on trial for criminal negligence

Abhijit Iyer Mitra
Senior fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

As Abba Eban, former foreign minister of Israel used to say, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources”. That’s what Trump has finally done. Global health had, for a long time, been one of the big lacunae of US foreign policy. Some of this had to do with domestic politics in the pro-choice versus pro-life debate, but mostly this had to do with the fact the world at large was overconfident. Why? Because previous epidemics, be it human or animal, SARS and Swine Flu or, the BSE epidemic in the UK had been successfully contained with minimal disruptions to the global order.

American disinterest had allowed the WHO to become the cesspit of cronyism and corruption. And even though other countries like the UK and Germany continued to have an interest, they could not match the diplomatic heft of China when it came to the sleazy politics of WHO jobs for the boys.

That has now ended and Trump, by withholding the biggest tranche of WHO national funding, has shown that China may win elections but its victory will result in bankrupt, hollowed out organisations. This is a firm and decisive action and must be applauded given that it’s the only viable alternative to putting up Dr Tedros Adhanom on trial for criminal negligence, if not war crimes.

Trump is derailing the fight against coronavirus by withdrawing WHO funding

Amir Ullah Khan
Professor of Health Economics at Indian School of Public Policy

Trump’s criticism of the WHO has its merits, but his decision to stop funding the organisation when it needs all support possible, is simply bizarre. The big bully, at a slight hint of being rebuffed, is now running away with the bat. If there is any hope of preventing the recurrence of Covid-19 in the future, it will be through the efforts of a multilateral collaboration in developing a cure and a vaccine against the coronavirus. Vaccine research requires enormous effort and needless to say billions of dollars. It is also something that the private sector has abandoned now for decades, as the investment is high and returns are negligible.

The price that the inventor can command is often very low, because of the government regulation, or acute competition that kicks in almost as soon as the patent is registered. Even otherwise, anti-virus vaccines become obsolete quickly as herd immunity kicks in. That is why it is important that public investment, helped by philanthropic funding, takes responsibility for vaccination and cure against neglected diseases and in particular against viral infections. The war against HIV/AIDS, for example, would not have been fought as well without active support from all rich nations.

Trump’s withdrawal signals yet again the demise of the US as a world leader. A President who at first denied the seriousness of the problem, then tried making it a jingoistic issue against China, is now derailing the entire fight back by refusing to play ball. This is unacceptable.

Trump not fully wrong in attacking WHO, his response stems from political anger

Yogesh Jain
Public health activist and co-founder, Jan Swasthya Sahyog

WHO’s primary job is providing technical advice to member states on health-related issues. Its secondary role is coordinating between different stakeholders like, drug manufacturers, vaccine researchers etc., at a global level.

However, having been funded by the richer, first-world countries, WHO quickly turned into an elite organisation, which at critical times, has not sided with the concerns of the marginalised of the world saying that they wanted to keep away from politics of health. This is the very criticism put forth by the People’s Health Movement, a global body of civil societies that works on health at grassroots level. Equity and justice in health is something that WHO has professed but not as much as preferred. That said, issues with regard to the functioning of WHO should be addressed in a year or so, not now during a pandemic.

I do not condone Trump’s attack on WHO and dismissal of the body as a whole. His attack comes from a place of political anger over the fact that WHO didn’t condemn any specific country and in this case, the US’ strategic competitor China. Trump’s announcement to withdraw US funding to WHO sends a dangerous message that the US and the world does not need a global technical resource body in health. His decision is immoral as it comes during a pandemic and effectively damages the efforts of WHO to provide health advisories, PPE, diagnostic tests and vaccine development to countries that are desperate for a helping hand.

Also read: US, Australia, Japan target China on Covid-19. Should India join or act in self-interest?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. The W.H.O ( World Health Org. ) and the heads of states of 195 countries in the world and the U.N, should address all nations to fight Corona as the holy month of Ramazan starting at a time when the Covid-19 virus already at its peak. The month of Ramazan chosen to be the best month by One Almighty God with full of Blessings and Mercies. In Ramazan, Gates of paradise are opened, Gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained up. What better time than any to draw closer to God than in the most blessed month of Ramazan when Almighty God makes it easy for us to do good actions so that we may draw closer to Him especially at a time of greatest need to get rid of virus with God’s will. As fasting in Ramazan is obligatory to all Muslims every year, it is not only a ritual to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk but It is an act of worship to get closer to God spiritually with dedication and to feel the hunger of the hungry and the poor who cannot afford to eat their daily bread and to help them to fulfill their needs with alms and charity.
    Since the fasting is also practiced and observed by people of other religions besides Islam, therefore the people of all religions must join together to fast in Ramazan to make it an unprecedented and unique way to show the unity and solidarity to One Almighty God by people of all religions by fasting and praying for common cause to get the virus eradicated from this earth with God’s will.
    All the Muslims and non-Muslims get this rare opportunity to come together as never before to turn a new leaf to get success in this world and Hereafter. In order to get fully prepared, the first thing we all need to do is to fulfill ALL of our obligatory duties and abstain from that which Allah and his last messenger have forbidden us from, which everyone can find from internet as the last messenger is mentioned in holy scriptures of all major religions. In this most blessed month of Ramazan all good deeds are multiplied. The arrival of Ramazan at a time of calamity of Covid-19 gives a very good chance to the entire world to take full advantage of the Blessings and Mercies of Ramazan to call One Almighty God because the same One God belongs to all. It is imperative for everyone to call upon One Almighty God without joining any partners, demigods, idols or anything beside Him because it is against the holy scriptures of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Judaism. Now, just imagine when the billions of believers in the world prostrate and grovel to One God by praying with fasting, certainly have a great impact to be answered by One Almighty as we supplicate with one voice with tears in eyes to repent for the sins due to ignorance and negligence and to prevent and cure all from Covid-19 and eradicate it soon. Finally, we hope One Almighty God will eradicate the deadly virus with His will. He is All Hearing, All Seeing, the Bestower, there is no might nor any power except with One Almighty God.

  2. The blatant coverup by WHO of the Chinese suppression of facts and figures is responsible for much of deaths occurring in the US. That it declared Covid19 a pandemic as late as March 11, when it was known to be an epidemic in China end Dec 2019, proves the corruption within the organisation. Why will the largest contributor Country continue when its citizens end up dead inspite of this? Let the Head of WHO resign, accepting his responsibility in the whole rotten mess, and maybe something can be worked out. US can always buy the vaccines when they are ready, having the most stringent testing protocols in place.

  3. Cooperative organisations like WHO gives the world a semblance of civility. Now the world has forgotten the world wars, cold war etc and again chooses to be uncivilized Barbarians. Racism, communalism, castism reigns supreme everywhere. So be it.

  4. Sticking my neck out, predicting Joe Biden will win in November. MEA should start working on Plan B. Fortunately, he is a Washington veteran, knows relations between important countries are guided by long term national interests, not transient personal factors.

  5. Part of a pattern. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord on climate change, which the whole planet had signed on to. The Iran nuclear deal, which was unanimously supported by P 5 + 1. Shaking up the architecture for global trade. Now this act of vandalism, undermining he global response to Covid 19, which has claimed so many precious American lives, about ten times the figure for 9 / 11. 2. Evidently meant to deflect scrutiny and criticism for a deeply bungled federal government response to the pandemic. Ignoring a series of inputs from the most well informed sources within the government. It will not work. Consider how many decent American journalists, starting from the upper crust, rippling down to small town America, will be studying why their country has paid such a high price in confronting this virus. As the summer and the presidential campaign move on, against the background of a tragic mounting human toll, apart from an economic crisis unlike anything since the Great Depression, Trump will have to come up with more convincing answers than scapegoating the WHO at a time when all sane people would be supporting it. 3. One hopes MEA will express its dismay and disappointment over this decision.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular