Trump administration aims to slash WHO funding amid coronavirus battle
By Li Zhiwei
People's Daily app

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US President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for reelection in the November 2020 US presidential elections, would continue to rack up debt for his latest budget. (Photo: AP)

Washington (People’s Daily) – According to a recent report from Foreign Policy, the Trump administration is considering making steep cuts in global health funds for its 2021 budget proposal. The changes could see over $3 billion removed from various programs, including half of its annual funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. 

According to US President Donald Trump’s 2021 proposal, the US would cut WHO funding by 53 percent and funding for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) by 75 percent.

In 2020, the US gave $123 million to WHO, about 2.5 percent of the organization’s overall $4.8 billion budget. Trump’s proposal calls for a 65 percent cut.

US State Department Director of Budget and Planning Douglas Pitkin said the cuts to WHO and PAHO are about seeking "greater accountability and efficiency" from both organizations.

The Trump administration also proposed slashing $3 billion from the US government's global health programs, from the $9.1 billion Congress allocated for Fiscal Year 2020 to $6 billion the following year. It proposes a 58 percent cut to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, to $658 million from $1.56 billion allocated in 2020.

Although the budget would be difficult to make it through the US House of Representatives, it has raised concerns and doubts that such an "American priority" action would harm global health programs. The bill would come at a time when the world is facing two virus epidemics, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the novel coronavirus in China.

According to the Foreign Policy report, the Trump administration’s proposed foreign aid cuts would hit the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations particularly hard.

“This is precisely the wrong time to be cutting funds to the World Health Organization, which is on the front lines of tackling the coronavirus epidemic and trying to keep it from spreading wildly to other countries,” said Peter Yeo, president of the Better World Campaign.

Eliot Engel, the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “Proposing such reckless cuts to our critical foreign policy tools isn’t a serious proposal.”

Regarding the risks it could trigger, US State Department Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun said the administration is asking to "replenish the flexible global health emergency reserve fund to allow us to quickly respond to outbreaks." But that amount -- $25 million -- is a quarter of what US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was willing to spend to help fight the novel coronavirus.

The Trump administration is planning to cut over 21 percent in foreign aid from the federal budget, proposing $44 billion for 2021 from the $55 billion Congress approved in 2020.

However, the US House will likely veto the plan once again. A US Senate aide said the White House has tried unsuccessfully for three years to impose steep cuts in funding for global health programs that Congress supports. 

"They don't seem to learn anything," the aide said.