President Trump is taking an increasing amount of flak for his decision to cut off US funding to the World Health Organization, with even those who agree with some of his criticisms of the UN health agency's handing of the pandemic saying now is not the time to deprive it of funds. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that while he sympathizes with Trump's criticisms of the WHO and its relationship with China, the agency still does important work and it would be wrong "to throw the baby out with the bathwater," NBC reports. More:
- "Illegal," Pelosi says. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Trump's move is "dangerous, illegal, and will be swiftly challenged," Politico reports. Congress has already approved the WHO contribution, and a rep for the House Appropriations Committee says Trump "does not have the unilateral authority to withhold the United States’ assessed contribution" and is now violating the same law that led to his impeachment.
- Counterpoint: But Politico also speaks with an unnamed senior administration official who points out the fiscal 2020 appropriations law states that the money must go not specifically to the WHO but to "necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, to meet annual obligations of membership in international multilateral organizations." That gives the administration leeway, the official contends.
- AMA speaks out. The American Medical Association also condemned the move, made "during the worst public health crisis in a century." "Cutting funding to the WHO—rather than focusing on solutions—is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world," said AMA president Dr. Patrice Harris. "The AMA is deeply concerned by this decision and its wide-ranging ramifications, and we strongly urge the President to reconsider."
- WHO chief "regrets" decision. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusis said Wednesday that he "regrets" Trump's move, especially since the coronavirus isn't the only issue the agency is dealing with, Axios reports. "We're also working to address polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer, diabetes, mental health, and many other diseases and conditions," he said. "We also work with countries to strengthen health systems and improve access to live-saving health services."
- Effects of the freeze. The US provides $400 million, or around a tenth of WHO's funding. But the immediate effect of the freeze will be relatively small, partly because the country is already almost $100 million in arrears, the Guardian reports. But in the longer term, it could hit programs that were already underfunded, including vaccinations programs and efforts to set up early warning systems for new Ebola outbreaks.
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