Governments, experts slam Trump’s decision on WHO funding

The US decision to suspend funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) deals a blow to international cooperation that is vital to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, a row of governments and health experts warned on Wednesday. Correspondents of dpa gathered the first reactions.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced on Tuesday that he would suspend funding, accusing the UN health agency in Geneva of "covering up" the coronavirus, siding with China in opposing travel restrictions and "praising China for its so-called transparency." 

China said it was "seriously concerned" about the US move. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the WHO plays an "irreplaceable" role in responding to public health crises. "The current global epidemic situation is grim and at a critical moment," said spokesman Zhao Lijian. "The US’ decision will weaken WHO’s capacity and undermine international cooperation in the fight against epidemics."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also expressed sharp criticism. "One of the best investments in the battle against the pandemic is to boost the United Nations, especially the underfinanced WHO, for example in developing and distributing tests and vaccines," Maas told dpa.

Russia condemned Trump's plan as "selfish" and "very alarming," according to comments by Russia's Foreign Ministry published by state news agency TASS.  Suspending funding would be a "blow to this organization at a moment when it is in the spotlight of the international community," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

Peter Eriksson, Swedish minister for international development cooperation, said it was "incredibly serious when the world's richest country does not back joint efforts, but unfortunately this is in line with how Trump often acts when he is criticized." "He is now criticized for acting too late and not understanding the seriousness, then he makes WHO a scapegoat instead," Eriksson told Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter. Eriksson added that he believed China should increase its contribution to the WHO, too.

Leading health experts also slammed Trump's move. The editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, Richard Horton, tweeted that "President Trump’s decision to defund WHO is simply this — a crime against humanity." Lawrence Gostin, a public health scholar at Georgetown University in Washington, warned that "in global health & amidst a pandemic, America will lose its voice."



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