U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently pull funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) if it does not commit to “major substantive improvements” within 30 days.
In a four-page letter to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump set out what he called “repeated missteps” by the organisation.
He claimed that the WHO shares the responsibility for the large number of deaths in the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
He alleged that mismanagement on the part of the WHO and reliance on information from China had dramatically worsened the epidemic and spread it globally.
Trump said he would make a temporary freeze of funding permanent and might also reconsider U.S. membership of the organisation at the end of the 30-day deadline if he saw no improvements.
“The only way forward for the World Health Organisation is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” the U.S. president asserted.
He said discussions with the organisation on how to reform the WHO had already begun.
“But action is needed quickly. We do not have time to waste.
“I cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organisation that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests,” Trump concluded.
The U.S. president faced international criticism when he announced in April that he would be halting funding to the WHO while a 60-90 day review took place.
He has also faced criticism over how the White House initially responded to the virus.
Trump has repeatedly accused WHO of failing in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN agency had vehemently denied this and outlined every step it took to advise member states on what to do to shield themselves from the pandemic.
( Read Trump’s letter as posted on Twitter:
This is the letter sent to Dr. Tedros of the World Health Organization. It is self-explanatory! pic.twitter.com/pF2kzPUpDv
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
Trump’s threat came on the day the WHO member states met for the first day of a two-day virtual assembly.
Tedros had invited both Trump and Xi Jinping to speak, in the hope of resolving differences between the two leaders on handling the outbreak, but Trump did not take part.
On Tuesday the WHO members states are set to agree to an independent investigation – put forward in a resolution by the EU – into how the coronavirus was handled.
The move came hours after the US president told reporters he had been taking hydroxychloroquine for a couple of weeks, despite warnings from his administration that it is dangerous.
“I think it’s good, I heard a lot of good stories … I take a pill every day,” he said.
Some claims in Trump’s letter were false, for example that Taiwan had warned about human-to-human transmission of the disease on 31 December.
On that date Taiwan sent a letter to the WHO noting the reported spate of unexplained pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, and that the patients were in isolation, and asking for further details.
Trump’s letter is the latest salvo in a war of words between Trump and the WHO that has unfolded in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The US president, who is under pressure at home over his response to the pandemic, temporarily froze funding to the WHO in April, accusing the global body of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the threat.
At the time, critics were stunned at the move to cut money from a critical UN agency during a global pandemic.
Before Trump’s letter, Tedros acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the virtual assembly he welcomed calls for a review.
“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he said.