President Donald Trump is facing a backlash after he announced that he is halting US funding of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Accusing the UN body of having "failed in its basic duty," Trump said that a review of the WHO will be carried out to determine its conduct during the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Only then will a final decision about funding be made.
"Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency," Trump told reporters, "the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death." He added that the health body had been "severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus."
Trump claimed that the United States gives $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year, while China contributes "roughly $40 million."
Tension between the WHO and the Trump administration has been high over the past few weeks, with the US President facing harsh criticism over his own mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, which he dismissed as a "hoax" at one stage.
In response to Trump's ongoing criticism, the head of the WHO outlined a timeline of its actions in response to the pandemic. "Please don't politicise the virus," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The WHO is yet to respond formally, but UN Secretary General António Guterres said the international community should be uniting "in solidarity" to stop this virus. "It is my belief that the World Health Organisation must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against Covid-19," he added.
Bill Gates, a major donor to the WHO, also expressed his outrage at Trump's move. "Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds," said the multibillionaire on twitter.
The decision to withhold funds from the WHO is the latest of many taken by the Trump administration to attack UN bodies that do not toe the US line. Two years ago, his administration withheld $65 million from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), before stopping all US donations to the agency completely.
Last year, Trump stopped all aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in what was seen as an attempt to punish them for their reluctance to back his so-called peace plan, known as the "deal of the century". Palestinians have rejected the deal, pointing out that it does not meet any of their basic rights guaranteed under international law.