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WHO responds to Trump’s threat to cut funding

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  • President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would put U.S. contributions on hold to the Geneva-based organization, saying the body had given bad advice during the outbreak.
  • The U.S. is the biggest donor to the WHO, with contributions exceeding $400 million in 2019, according to Reuters. 
  • Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO's director-general, also defended the organization against comments from Trump that the body is "China-centric."

President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, April 7, 2020.Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The WHO has responded to President Donald Trump's threat to cut its funding, saying the move would not be appropriate during the global coronavirus pandemic.

"We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding," Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing Wednesday, Reuters reported.

It comes after Trump on Tuesday blamed the United Nations' health agency for getting "every aspect" of the coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to withhold funding from the body.

"With regard to us, they're taking a lot of heat because they didn't want the borders closed, they called it wrong. They really called, I would say, every aspect of it wrong," Trump said at a White House press conference.

As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 400,000, according to figures provided by NBC, with 12,864 fatalities nationwide.

President Trump said Tuesday that he would "put a hold" on U.S. contributions to the Geneva-based WHO, saying it had given bad advice during the outbreak.

"We will look at ending funding because you know what, they called it wrong," Trump added.

It's uncertain how the U.S. will do this. Congress has already authorized $122 million for the WHO for this fiscal year, and while Trump has proposed only $58 million of funding in fiscal year 2021 — a significant cut — Congress is unlikely to authorize such a drastic funding cut, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

The president also criticized the WHO's initial response to the outbreak, which originated in Wuhan in China in late 2019, and the time it took to declare the outbreak a global pandemic, on March 11.

"Take a look, go through step by step. They said there's no big deal, there's no big problem. There's no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down, they said I made a mistake in closing it down and it turned out to be right," Trump said.

The president had already lambasted the WHO earlier on Tuesday, calling it "China centric" on Twitter.

But another official at the WHO rejected that criticism.

"It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this," Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, said at the virtual briefing Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically."


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