Bloomberg: President Donald Trump has agreed to contribute $108 million to the World Health Organization to fight Covid-19, polio, flu and other diseases in vulnerable countries, even as the U.S. prepares to withdraw from the institution he blames for early missteps in the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to fund health programs in countries including Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan represents a victory for administration moderates who had argued the U.S. would imperil the lives of millions of people and undercut its own national security interests if it followed through with Trump’s order, made in April, to halt all funding for the WHO. A month later, the president formally announced that the U.S. would leave in a year’s time.
“The position of the White House is that the WHO needs to reform, and that starts with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party,” Nerissa Cook, deputy assistant secretary of state, said at a briefing by administration officials on Wednesday. The officials said that the formal withdrawal will take effect on July 6, 2021.
They said the U.S. won’t pay $62 million it was obligated to provide as part of its 2020 assessed contributions to the organization. That money will go to other United Nations organizations instead.
The funding move is a recognition that no other group has the infrastructure or government relationships to fight polio or coronavirus in the countries at risk and that it’s in the U.S. interest to continue that effort.
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Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO drew widespread criticism from medical experts and other governments given that it happened at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and fractured any sense of global unity in fighting the virus. The U.S. argues that the WHO is too beholden to China to be effective and that it consistently erred in its response to containing the virus.
The president also bristled at WHO criticism early in the outbreak that appeared to target his decision for a partial ban on flights from China, which he touts as a sign he responded quickly to the rising threat.
Critics see Trump’s WHO withdrawal decision as a politically motivated effort to shift blame away from his shortcomings in containing an outbreak that has killed almost 185,000 Americans.
Earlier this year, before the outbreak ravaged the U.S., Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had said Americans should be “aware of and proud of our vast commitments to these important institutions,” including the WHO. He later changed course, calling the health organization irrevocably flawed.
The U.S. hasn’t ruled out staying in the WHO if the organization carries out the reforms the U.S. wants, such as separating itself more from China and developing faster responses to pandemics. In fact, it has been working with other countries to try to present a series of changes the U.S. would demand before rejoining.
If the WHO works better, “that will be good for everybody,” Garrett Grigsby, the director of the the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Global Affairs. “If they’re interested in seeing the United States stay, they will take that seriously.”- Bloomberg
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