President Trump announced Tuesday that the United States would end funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations agency tasked with global public health. The following statement is attributable to Donna McKay, executive director at Physicians for Human Rights:
“By halting funding to the WHO, President Trump is endangering the lives of millions of people around the world, particularly those most at risk during this historic pandemic.
“A global health emergency demands a global response. The World Health Organization provides vital international assistance and coordination. That President Trump would halt funding to WHO in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic is reckless and risks contributing to widespread death and suffering.
“This move comes at precisely the wrong time. The pandemic is beginning to spread from high-income countries to countries with weak health systems. We urgently need more concerted, coordinated, and effective action from the global community, not less. And we need global leadership that understands and embraces coordination and collaboration.
“While the WHO’s COVID-19 response has been imperfect, the idea of ending U.S. funding for this vital UN body defies logic and imperils millions. For one, leading U.S. and international researchers are collaborating on global vaccine trials through WHO, which is a hub of such essential research.
“President Trump appears to be looking for a scapegoat for the pandemic. He is trying to deflect attention from the devastating U.S. death toll and his own repeated failures to respond promptly and coherently to the pandemic. Rather than attack the professionals at the WHO, President Trump should get health workers the personal protective equipment that they are dying without. He should collaborate with states and cities on a coordinated national response guided by science and human rights, not ideology and xenophobia. He must listen to medical experts at this time of great national and global peril.
“All institutions responding to COVID-19, be it at a local, national, or global level, should be transparent and accountable. But eviscerating the capacity of the world’s essential health institution at a time like this is a profound mistake.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.