The Trump Administration notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a move that comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in America over the past week.
What We Know:
- The Trump Administration submitted the notice to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and to Congress. A spokesperson for Guterres said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met”. Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations”.
- The withdrawal is expected to take effect on July 6, 2021, but has already drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations, and allies abroad.
- Among its current functions, the WHO is attempting to coordinate efforts to get personal safety and medical equipment, like ventilators, to hospitals around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the UN Foundation, said the organization is “indispensable” in the fight against Covid-19. She called the decision to withdraw “short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous” and said that the United States’ “ability to lead and shape an agenda for reform is drastically diminished when they step out of the field of play”.
- Loyce Pace, president and executive director of Global Health Council, agreed with Cousens, saying, “thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the frontlines: the world needs WHO. This move signals a dangerous gamble in the midst of a pandemic we have yet to conquer, and without a viable alternative to WHO.”
- The Trump administration has been outspoken in recent months with the president’s criticism of the WHO. In mid-April, Trump said he was halting funding to the organization and in May he announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO after he said it “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms”. Trump also consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.
- Lawmakers from both parties have long cited systemic problems with the WHO, but many have denounced Trump’s decision to withdraw during a global pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed on Twitter to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of true senselessness” and Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted the news Tuesday, calling Trump’s response to Covid-19 “chaotic and incoherent”.
Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the @WHO in the midst of a pandemic.
To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests—it leaves Americans sick & America alone.
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) July 7, 2020
Trump also faces criticism from his own party. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said he disagreed with Trump’s decision. “If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen,” he said. But “withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States, as well as others in the world, need.”
- Last month, members of the GOP China task force urged Trump to reconsider his decision to sever relations with the international body, arguing that the US can do more to affect change as a member.
- The heads of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American College of Physicians condemned the move to withdraw from the WHO, saying in a statement that it “puts the health of our country at grave risk”. In a joint statement, they say, “We call on Congress to reject the Administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution. Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back.”
The number of coronavirus cases continues to surge across the U.S. and in various countries around the world. Currently, the United States has at least 2,953,423 cases of coronavirus and an estimated 130,546 people have died from the virus in this country, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.