As Trump threatens to cut WHO funding, India says Covid-19 should remain focus
The Centre on Wednesday reacted cautiously to US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with people familiar with developments saying the world community’s focus should remain on the Covid-19 pandemic.
During his daily briefing on the Covid-19 crisis, Trump announced the US would halt funding for the WHO for “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the Coronavirus”.
The move was soon criticised by world leaders, and UN chief Antonio Guterres said this was “not the time to reduce the resources for the operations” of the WHO.
The Indian government was more circumspect in its response, with people familiar with developments insisting that the focus of global efforts should remain on overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
“At present, our efforts and attention are fully focused on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the world has addressed this crisis, we can revisit this question [of funding for the WHO],” one of the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while participating in a virtual summit of G20 leaders last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had called for the reform of the WHO, which was based on the “last century’s models” and hadn’t adapted to deal with new challenges.
At his daily briefing, Trump, who has repeatedly criticised the WHO in recent weeks for its handling of the pandemic and for allegedly toeing China’s line, said: “Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organisation while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organisation’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the Coronavirus.”
He noted that American taxpayers “provide between $400 million and $500 million” a year to the WHO, while China “contributes roughly $40 million a year and even less”. He added, “As the organisation’s leading sponsor, the US has a duty to insist on full accountability.”
Trump further said: “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations. They were very much opposed to what we did. Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives.”
The US president is himself facing criticism for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis in his country, which has recorded more than 614,000 infections and more than 26,000 deaths.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the need of the hour is unity in the global battle against Covid-19 and not cutting the funding for the WHO.
“It is my belief that the WHO must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19,” Guterres said.
While acknowledging the need to review the actions of different entities in responding to the Coronavirus, Guterres said: “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.”
He added, “The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time.”
German foreign minister Heiko Maas tweeted: “Blaming does not help. The virus knows no borders…One of the best investments is the @UN, especially the underfunded @WHO, to strengthen…the development and distribution of tests and vaccines.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates tweeted: “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.”