UN chief warns now is ‘not the time’ for Trump to cut WHO funding

15 Apr 2020

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The head of the UN has warned Donald Trump that now is ‘not the time’ to halt WHO funding going towards coronavirus research.

US president Donald Trump is set to slash the budget of the World Health Organization (WHO) after announcing plans to halt funding. In 2019, the US contributed more than $400m to the WHO.

During the press conference on Tuesday (14 April), Trump said: “I am directing my administration to halt funding while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”

Trump has been criticised for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, having once described it as a hoax and at one time referring to the pandemic as the ‘Chinese virus’.

In response to the cut in funding, UN secretary general António Guterres reiterated that the WHO “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19”.

“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 said.

“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time.”

Defunding ‘as dangerous as it sounds’

Guterres added that it is also not the time to reduce the operations of the WHO or any humanitarian organisation working to stop the spread of Covid-19. The US is the largest donor to the WHO, providing just under 15pc of its entire budget.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is another major donor. Writing on Twitter, Bill Gates warned that halting funding to the WHO during a global pandemic “is as dangerous as it sounds”.

“Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organisation can replace them,” he said.

In February, the WHO issued a fundraising appeal worth at least $675m in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now believed to be making another appeal that could be at least $1bn.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic