Reform or face fund cuts, Trump tells WHO

U.S. President threatens to leave organisation if it fails to demonstrate independence from China

As the World Health Assembly met virtually to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump told the World Health Organization (WHO) that the U.S. will make permanent its funding cuts to the organisation and consider leaving it, if it did not commit to “major substantial reform” within the next 30 days.

“...If the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of U.S. funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership to the organization,” Mr. Trump wrote in a four-page letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Mr. Trump had temporarily stopped the funding last month and begun a review of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic, which the President and others in his administration have repeatedly criticised, particularly the global health body’s relationship to China.

Critics have argued that while the WHO could have acted more decisively and quickly, Mr. Trump’s allegations against the organisation were often his way of deflecting the criticism of his own handling of the pandemic. Mr. Trump’s letter largely consisted of a list of criticism of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. It also compared Mr. Ghebreyesus’s handling of the situation with former WHO chief Gro Harlem Brundtland’s handling of SARS in 2003.

“Many lives could have been saved had you followed Dr. Brundltland’s example,” Mr. Trump wrote. “It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organisation in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world.”

Mr. Trump said the only way forward for the WHO would be to demonstrate independence from China.

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