US President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the country will suspend funding to the World Health Organization while it reviews the UN health body's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US provides nearly a quarter of the agency's operational budget and hundreds of millions of dollars more each year for specific initiatives and public health crises, so the suspension will be detrimental in light of the battle against COVID-19. China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a press briefing Wednesday that the US decision "will impair WHO's capacities and undermine international cooperation against the epidemic."
The suspension is prone to largely jeopardize the agency's reputation and the potential operations it will take in the fight against the virus. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, now is not the time to reduce resources in the fight against COVID-19. Currently, with over 2,000,000 confirmed infections globally, the whole human race is racing against time to contain the spread of the coronavirus, as it quickens its pace to develop vaccines. This is the time for a greater mobilization of resources across geographical borders, rather than undermining concerted efforts. Halting funding for the agency at this critical time does greater harm than good.
The timing is crucial as the pandemic is spreading all over the world, with confirmed infections concentrated in developed countries like the US, Spain, Italy, Germany and so on. Developing countries like India and regions including Africa and South America face a looming crisis of potential outbreaks, and this can be a real danger as these regions are more vulnerable than Europe and America.
As the USAID administrator Mark Green who departed last Friday said in a previous statement, "Funds that are going to the WHO will help the governments of currently affected or at-risk developing countries prepare their laboratories for large-scale testing for COVID-19,” which is critical for these countries to weather the potential outbreak that's probably going to take place. With under-resourced hospitals, fragile healthcare systems, and less advanced social governance, developing countries and regions are facing underlying crises in all sectors.
So the question is, why does the United States do this? The answer seems obvious: to find a scapegoat for its own inability in epidemic prevention and control. Instead of prioritizing treating patients and controlling the spread of the virus, the Trump administration has spared no efforts to blame others for its own mishandling of the situation — previously China and now the WHO. The hidden dangers it buried will only fall on the shoulders of the US citizens, potentially impacting their health and well-being, as well as people in other countries that may have benefited from the resources allocated by WHO. It's narrow-minded and risky to ignore the rights of the public for the sake of sugar-coating its own mistakes.
In a time of crisis, responsible players in the global community stand in solidarity against the common enemy. Josep Borrell, the European Union's top foreign policy representative, denounced Trump's payment freeze, and Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned against US "blaming others" for the coronavirus crisis. Under the coordination of WHO, more than 90 countries are now working together to find effective therapeutics as soon as possible. The agency has also played a leading role in the previous virus fights like SARS and MERS.
The spread of COVID-19 transcends geographical boundaries, countries, and races. Only when the epidemic is contained in every country on earth, can we all stay safe and sound. The US, as a superpower, is bound to act as a responsible player and contribute to conquering the common enemy. And in this hard-fought fight, it should be recognized that the role of the WHO should be enhanced instead of impaired.