Trump, at a White House news conference, said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” He said the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15 percent of its budget.
The hold on funding was expected. Trump has been increasingly critical of the organization as the global health crisis has continued.
Trump said the WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the virus’ spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening.
“Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained … with very little death,” Trump said.
Trump said the U.S. review of the WHO was likely to take 60-90 days.
Trump said Washington would discuss with global health partners what it will do with the millions of dollars that would normally go to the WHO and said the United States would continue to engage with the organization.
Trump has long questioned the value of the United Nations and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an “America First” agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the WHO’s 2018-19 biennium budget, the United States was required to pay $237 million—known as an assessed contribution, which is appropriated by Congress—and also made some $656 million in voluntary contributions that were tied to specific programs.
Voluntary U.S. funding for the WHO has been used to address such health issues as polio eradication, vaccines, combat HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis and the health of women, newborns and children.
Reuters contributed to this report