This week, President Donald Trump abruptly announced that his administration would apparently be suspending U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization, a joint global venture affiliated with the United Nations that has been at the front lines of the Coronavirus response around the world. Trump alleges that the organization’s initial response was “China-centric,” although he himself praised the early Chinese virus management efforts while simultaneously failing to take any comprehensive preparatory steps beyond the single, solitary move of restricting travel from China, where the virus emerged. An internal administration memo has emerged outlining the dangers of Trump pressing ahead with his ignorance and suspending WHO funding.
The memo is the work of officials at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and outlines how a funding suspension “would erode America’s global standing, threaten U.S. lives and hobble global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” ProPublica reports. Trump has, of course, already publicly announced his intention to suspend WHO funding in the middle of the pandemic, but the outlet adds that the newly surfaced memo may give officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the cover to direct at least some continuing cooperation with the WHO, in defiance of the president’s belligerent demands.
The memo states, in part:
‘Current discussions regarding pausing U.S. assistance to the WHO to combat the pandemic risks not only further undermining our ability to help host governments address urgent needs, but also undermines the U.S. narrative of a long-standing partner at precisely the time posts are most reliant on that narrative.’
More specifically, the document adds, pausing funding for the WHO risks giving Chinese authorities the opportunity to take the spotlight for themselves. Based on U.S. intelligence reports, China is widely believed to have lied about the true scope of the Coronavirus outbreak within their borders.
As the memo puts it:
‘[Pausing WHO funding] will impact over $50 million in U.S. assistance planned to help host governments address urgent needs and risks undermining the U.S. narrative of a long-standing health leader, ceding ground to the (People’s Republic of China).’
The president only has the apparent legal power to halt additional funds that Congress approved for contributing to the WHO just recently beyond routine yearly contributions. Meanwhile, Trump’s own take on China has wavered in the political wind. In January, he tweeted:
‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
To say that it did not work out well would be an understatement. Now that Trump has been proven wrong, he’s trying to deflect blame for his own mistakes onto some other source.
But while Trump was insisting that concern about the Coronavirus was a “hoax,” the WHO was among those developing crucial response plans that in some countries, constitute the main public health infrastructure. The newly surfaced memo even notes that for around two dozen Americans currently essentially stranded in Libya, in any “health crisis,” they “will likely depend on WHO-provided assistance to make it through.”