World Health Organization asks US to reconsider withdrawal from international group

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adnom Ghebius spoke during a news conference on the status of coronovirus (COVID-2019) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Denis Ballybos | Reuters

The top official of the World Health Organization said on Thursday that he hoped the United States would reconsider its decision to leave the United Nations Health Organization, noting that coronaviruses cannot be defeated “in a divided world”.

“The problem is not about the money, it is not the funding that is the issue. It is really the relationship with the US that is more important abroad and its leadership,” WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adenholm Ghebreyus said during an interview with NBC Nightly News. The Aspen Security Forum was hosted by anchor Lester Holt.

In early July, the Trump administration notified the United Nations Secretary-General of his intention to withdraw from the World Health Organization by July 6, 2021. Trump has cited what he calls the WHO as the primary support to the misuse of funds and its sweet relationship with China.

“If there are massive problems with the WHO or the UN system, you know, we are very open to any assessment or evaluation, and the truth can be known,” Tedros said. “This can be done from the inside without leaving the organization.”

Tedros said during the interview that US officials are still cooperating with the organization in response to the epidemic and are “actively participating.”

“We still have communication, we are working together and we appreciate it, but I hope the relationship returns to normal…” Tedros said.

Tensions between the US and WHO have increased in recent months over the organization’s ties with China, where the virus emerged late last year. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims China to be a “co-option” of WHO. Tedros said the comment was untrue and a distraction from the global coronovirus epidemic response.

The WHO’s largest fund is the US and most of the money goes towards the agency’s emergencies, created to help the world’s most vulnerable populations, WHO officials have previously said. He said that if the US actually retreats from the WHO and cuts funding, there may be a loss of support from the US.

WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan praised the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, calling it “one of the greatest scientific institutions on the planet”.

Trump has previously criticized the CDC’s guidelines, which describe the country’s schools as too difficult and expensive. Some former directors of the CDC have criticized the Trump administration for rejecting advice from public health officials in their epidemic response.

“I don’t know that Americans know how important the CDC is, not just to Americans, but to every citizen of this planet,” Ryan said during the interview. “The politics of these things will never shake the bonds that urge scientists around the world and the desire to work together to save lives.”


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