Cover Photo: World Health Organization logo under magnifying glass from Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Tag This: The escalating situation caused by COVID-19 has placed substantial pressure on national governments and intergovernmental organizations to respond effectively. With the global death toll exceeding 100,000, criticism and blame are being hurled from several directions. Tuesday afternoon President Trump said that the U.S. is placing a hold on funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, pending a review. Here is the reaction from each side.
On The Left: Critics of Trump have argued this is an effort to “throw red meat” to his base, and that doing so is incredibly dangerous at this moment. Michael Bociurkiw writes in a CNN opinion piece, “The attack may further erode the moral authority of the WHO at a time when the world’s leaders, many of whom have been caught woefully unprepared, require leadership and coordination.” While many critics of Trump believe the attacks on the WHO are purely partisan – an attempt for Trump to deflect from his own response to the pandemic – there are those who agree of a need to investigate the WHO’s response. There is a sense that the WHO is not a perfect organization, and that it requires significant improvement. However, threatening to withdraw funding from the organization at this moment would exacerbate the situation.
On the Right: Trump and his allies have accused the WHO of having prior knowledge of how dire the situation would become, and that it has also allegedly worked to minimize China’s role in spreading the virus. According to Fox News’ reporting, the United States contributed over $500 million to the WHO in 2017. Trump cited the disparity between the United States’ contribution and China’s $40 million annual contributions. Believing the WHO to unfairly favor China, Trump explained to Fox’s Sean Hannity, “The World Health [Organization] – very China-centric, as I say – basically everything positive for China…And literally, they called every shot wrong. They didn’t want to say where [coronavirus] came from.” Republican Senator Rick Scott has also adamantly chastised the WHO for its protection of “communist China” stating, “At first they said…that there was no evidence there was human to human transmission. Lie. Then they said ‘China’s doing a great job’. Lie.”
Flag This: While it can be debated if there is a political motivation in criticizing the WHO, serious concerns are being raised about the organization’s ability to manage and protect public health on an international scale. A partisan divide is evident, but there are also signs that some on the left are seeing a need to investigate the WHO for potential misconduct. Robert Wright at Wired magazine published an assessment of the situation, admitting that “Trump isn’t wrong about investigating WHO”, albeit any investigation should be conducted once the pandemic has concluded.