Bill Gates and the United Nations (UN) have described the decision of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to halt the country’s contribution to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘dangerous’ and unnecessary at a time the world is wrestling to defeat the spread of COVID-19.
Mr Trump, in his address to White House correspondents on Tuesday, revealed his decision to withhold the country’s funding over his suspicion of the agency’s dereliction of duty.
He also alleged that the WHO was complicit in mismanaging and covering up of the spread of the coronavirus after its emergence in China.
“I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Mr Trump had told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday.
On a yearly basis, the US contributes roughly $400 to $500 million to the coffers of the WHO. This makes the country the leading sponsor of the organisation.
Mr Trump has also been facing criticism from Americans on his management of the pandemic in the country. As at Wednesday’s morning, the US has recorded over 614,246 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 18,255 total death cases.
Currently, the country accounts for a little above 25 per cent of the world’s COVID-19 cases while the world total cases is a little above two million.
In reaction to Mr Trump’s decision, Bill Gates, who is the second-largest funder of WHO, in his tweet posted at 6:17 a.m. on Wednesday, described such a decision as “dangerous”, going by the current stretch of the pandemic across the world and the efforts of the organisation so far.
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” Mr Gates cautioned.
According to information on WHO official website, Mr Gates provided 9.76 per cent of the agency’s funds in the year 2018-2019 while the US contributed 14.67 per cent ($400m) of the entire funds.
China’s contribution in the same year was almost $76m in assessed contributions and about $10m in voluntary funding. This is about 0.21 per cent of the entire contribution.
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In its official statement in reaction to Mr Trump’s directive, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said now is not the time to reduce resources in the combat against the pandemic disease but a time to stay unity to ascertain victory.
“This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities. Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.
“But now is not that time.
“As it is not that time, it is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he appealed.
This reaction was also retweeted by the WHO Twitter handle even though the agency is yet to respond to Mr Trump’s allegations.