Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have launched an investigation into Trump’s decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization in response to the group’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic is counterproductive and puts lives at risk,” Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the committee, wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday. “Attacking the WHO, rather than the COVID-19 outbreak, will only worsen an already dire situation by undermining one of our key tools to fight the spreading disease.”
Engel called the Trump administration’s justification for halting funding to the WHO “inadequate.”
“The Committee on Foreign Affairs is determined to understand the reasons behind this self-defeating withdrawal from global leadership,” he said.
Engel demanded that the State Department provide documents proving the justification for Trump’s decision to pull funding from the WHO.
“The WHO is an imperfect organization that is only as functional as its member states empower it to be. It has made mistakes during the course of this unprecedented emergency, and I would support reforms to strengthen the organization,” he wrote. “But, certainly, cutting the WHO’s funding while the world confronts the COVID-19 tragedy is not the answer. We are facing a global health emergency, requiring a comprehensive effort. The WHO has played an essential role in coordinating among governments around the world, and was quick to declare the spread of COVID-19 a health emergency and a pandemic. The WHO’s efforts to help slow the spread and flatten the curve have been invaluable.”
Trump announced the halt in funding earlier this month, arguing he did not want to send taxpayer money to WHO after their “botched effort” in handling the pandemic and cozy relationship with China, where the coronavirus originated.
“Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death,” Trump said on April 15.
Leading U.S. health officials have echoed Trump’s claim, saying foreign nations would have been better prepared to deal with the pandemic had China and world health leaders been more transparent during the early days of the outbreak.
“You have to increase your level of reporting and transparency,” Dr. Deborah Birx said in April. “Because it’s a new disease, every word and every experience that you have becomes very critical.”
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