The US may never resume funding the World Health Organization, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned, after President Donald Trump pulled his support. China has stepped into the breach with an extra $30 million.
“I think we’ve got to take a real hard look at the WHO and what we do coming out of this,” Pompeo told Fox News, calling for a “structural fix” for the organization as a precondition to resuming funding.
Asked if he was serious about hanging the global health body out to dry, he confirmed, “it may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting – having US taxpayer dollars go to the WHO.”
At the same time the Trump administration was doubling down on its decision to yank funding from the group despite the global coronavirus pandemic, Beijing announced it would donate an additional $30 million to the WHO on Thursday, citing the need to beef up health systems in developing countries as the coronavirus pandemic continues to menace the world’s population. The bonus comes in addition to the $20 million China gave the UN body last month.
“At this crucial moment, supporting WHO is supporting multilateralism and global solidarity,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Twitter.
Trump’s decision to pull US funding from the organization earlier this month has triggered international outcry. While the move has not yet been finalized – the administration is reviewing the contributions, a process that will take 60 to 90 days – Trump has not minced words, accusing the WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus” and promoting “Chinese disinformation.” Along with Pompeo, the president has encouraged rumors that the coronavirus epidemic began in a lab in Wuhan – allegations Beijing has flatly denied and which are not supported by evidence.
China in turn slammed the US threat to defund the health body as “classic blackmailing,” suggesting the US was using its status as the organization’s number-one funder to exert its will in “typical hegemonic mentality.” The WHO, too, condemned the move, pointing out it jeopardized not only the safety of the rest of the world but of the US itself.
The US is the top funder of the WHO, whose 2020-2021 budget is nearly $4.85 billion. Should Washington actually pull out, the health policy group will effectively be led by Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the next-largest contributor. As the third-largest funder, the UK would presumably assume the mantle of steering the WHO should the US abdicate its role. Germany, Japan and Kuwait are the next-largest public-sector donors.