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Homeland Security

US Formally Starts Withdrawal From WHO

By VOA News July 07, 2020

The White House has formally notified the United Nations that it is pulling the United States out of the World Health Organization, despite the surging number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

President Donald Trump froze U.S. funding for WHO in April, and a month later announced his intentions to drop out. He accused the organization of having a pro-China bias in its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and demands reforms.

"We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act. Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating the relationship," Trump said in May.

Under WHO rules, any country leaving the organization must give one year's notice. If Trump loses the November election, the next president could decide to remain.

The United States leads the world with the most COVID-19 cases – nearly 3 million – and close to 131,000 deaths.

Criticism of move

U.S. health experts call the president's action shortsighted, saying it destroys decades of cooperation in fighting all diseases.

"Abandoning our seat at the table leaves the United States out of global decision-making to combat the virus and global efforts to develop and access vaccines and therapeutics, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 while diminishing our position as the leader in global health," said Thomas File Jr., president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "Without the WHO, the nation is at higher risk of being inadequately prepared for many health risks of pandemic proportions."

United Nations Foundation President Elizabeth Cousens said WHO is the only body capable of coordinating a global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"A U.S. withdrawal from WHO would also jeopardize decades of hard-won progress on other critical global health priorities that matter to Americans – from expanding access to vaccines to fighting diseases like polio, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, and working to strengthen health systems everywhere. Those priorities are not only shared the world over but have decades of bipartisan support in the United States," she said.

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said abandoning WHO will leave "Americans sick and Americans alone," while Congressman Eric Swalwell called the decision "irresponsible, reckless, and utterly incomprehensible."

Accusations against WHO

But Trump and other conservative critics of WHO accuse the organization of spreading what they say was Chinese misinformation about the coronavirus early in the pandemic, including allegations that China deliberately tried to downplay the dangers of COVID-19 and how it can spread through human-to-human contact.

The United States is a charter member of WHO, which was founded in 1948, and has been its biggest donor.

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