President Trump on Tuesday said his administration will halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) pending a review of the global body over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump said at a White House briefing that the United States would suspend funding to the organization while officials conduct a review “to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
The president criticized the WHO for opposing large-scale travel restrictions and accused it of failing to quickly vet and share accurate information on COVID-19.
“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
Tuesday’s announcement immediately triggered backlash from the health community. The American Medical Association swiftly issued a statement calling the move a “dangerous step in the wrong direction” and urging Trump to reconsider.
“Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data. Cutting funding to the WHO — rather than focusing on solutions — is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world,” the AMA said.
Trump said last week that he was considering withholding funding to the WHO over its handling of the coronavirus, accusing it of favoritism toward Beijing and rebuking it for opposing his travel restriction on China. He has also characterized the WHO’s response to the outbreak as sluggish.
Experts have warned that suspending funding for the WHO during a pandemic could have adverse consequences.
Trump’s increased focus on the WHO comes as he undergoes increasing scrutiny for his own response to the virus. The president downplayed the threat of the coronavirus early on in the outbreak, and health experts say that early missteps with testing hampered the overall U.S. response.
Conservatives have also stepped up criticism of the WHO, zeroing in on Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s praise of China’s handling of the virus despite reports about efforts by Beijing to conceal the extent of its outbreak.
Trump said Tuesday that his administration would continue to engage with the WHO to see if meaningful reform is possible.