Amid a global pandemic, withholding U.S. funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is reckless, harmful and counterproductive, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) has said.
In a statement on Thursday, April 16, 2020, ASTMH disclosed that such a step only encumbers the global response against COVID-19 instead of bolstering it.
“It makes no sense from an economic, social or health perspective,” says the 97-year-old organisation.
It adds: “The WHO serves as the frontline support system for all countries – including the United States. Working together is the smartest, most efficient and cost-effective way to confront this unprecedented, spreading global health crisis. No other organisation can play the role of WHO or its central diplomatic role or perform the service they do across borders and cultures.
“We urge the Trump Administration to resume U.S. funding to the WHO and work together with all of the other WHO Member States to provide appropriate oversight to the organisation’s response efforts. The WHO has made mistakes, as do all organisations.
“And yes, all member countries should pay their fair share and work to improve the system. There will be lessons on how to better manage responses and opportunities to instill reforms, but after the disaster, rather than in the middle of it. Our focus must be on pushing forward and working together to accelerate the global response.”
The group states that, for the two-year cycle of 2018 and 2019, U.S. contributions accounted for about 20% of WHO’s total budget. It lists some of the wide-reaching consequences that could occur from cuts in U.S. funding to include:
- Cancelling the shipment of masks, gowns and gloves to healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients around the world.
- Decreasing or terminating COVID-19 testing in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Endng testing for Ebola virus disease in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and an interruption to tracing the contacts of infected people in efforts to contain the disease.
ASTMH further states: “With COVID-19 spreading throughout every country, the WHO and its member states are providing critical data and guidance on the activity of the virus. The WHO has provided vital supplies to healthcare workers in dozens of countries to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 around the globe. Beyond COVID-19, WHO is doing vital work worldwide in the fight against other infectious diseases like malaria, measles, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and polio.
“A U.S. investment in global health is the best way to prepare and lead through a global pandemic. It is why the United States spearheaded the creation of the World Health Organisation. COVID-19 is a real-life demonstration that a virus can jump time zones and ZIP codes with ease. Wouldn’t we help put out a fire in our neighbour’s house to protect our own? Let’s put out the fire and continue to fund WHO. All our lives depend on it.”