President Trump’s decision to freeze funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 60 days elicited predictable responses. Supporters of the President hailed the move as justifiable punishment for the WHO’s misdeeds leading up to the global outbreak of COVID-19. Opponents recoiled and claimed that Trump was using the WHO as a scapegoat for his own failures. Both sides, as they frequently do nowadays, miss the mark in their analyses. The President should continue to fund the WHO, for now.
I get it. It’s satisfying to bash the WHO over the head with a metaphorical frying pan. It deserves it. As detailed by AEI scholar Lyman Stone in a terrific piece for The Dispatch, The WHO’s initial fact-finding mission to China “produced a tidal wave of misinformation, informing the wider world that human-to-human transmission was not a great risk (false), that masks were not very helpful (false), and that China’s efforts successfully prevented spread of the disease (look at the world around you: clearly false).” To top off this sundae of incompetence, “The WHO repeatedly parroted China’s false claims about the disease, while not criticizing the communist government’s suppression of information about COVID-19 in December and January.” The WHO blew it, no doubt about it.
With that being said that, now is not the time to pause WHO funding. In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, we need all hands on deck. Trump’s decision to pause funding now for the WHO’s mistakes is tantamount to conducting a court-martial in the middle of a raging battle. The WHO coordinates lifesaving information dissemination efforts. It’s currently working with UNICEF to reach roughly 3.6 billion people who do not have internet access via text message. These texts will transmit critical health information, especially in areas where medical advice is not easily accessible. The WHO and its army of scientists and medical professionals also are one of the main contributors to the global effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
In an interview shortly after the funding freeze, Trump’s own CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield reiterated America’s support for the WHO and called the organization “a great partner for us”, adding “we’re continuing to work side by side [with the WHO] to do the best that we can to limit the spread of disease and to protect the American people.”
Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO not only jeopardizes the public health, but also our national security interests. A temporary departure from the WHO opens up a massive power vacuum that must be filled. Which country has the most to gain by filling the void left behind by the United States? China. Which country has increased its contribution to the WHO by $50 million since the freeze? China.
In reality, now would be a fantastic time to re-up our contributions to international organizations like the WHO. Now is the perfect time to remind the world that the United States is committed to the well-being of all free nations, unlike the Chinese government. Unfortunately, it seems as though the Trump Administration is prioritizing short term reelection tactics over long term foreign policy goals. Despite its egregious errors in handling the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily pausing funding to the World Health Organization is a mistake at this critical juncture.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.