Critics are slamming U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the U.N. secretary general, who is the depository for the WHO,” a senior administration official said Tuesday, The New York Times reported.
If the U.S. meets established conditions of giving a one-year notice and fulfilling its current financial obligations, the withdrawal could take effect sometime next year, according to Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The U.S. played a central role in the creation of the WHO and is one of the largest sources of funding for the agency. Trump has blamed the WHO for not doing enough to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in China that led to the worldwide pandemic.
But four leading U.S. medical organizations issued a statement on Tuesday condemning the decision.
“The Trump administration’s official withdrawal from the World Health Organization puts the health of our country at grave risk,” said the joint statement from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians. “As leading medical organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, we join in strong opposition to this decision, which is a major setback to science, public health, and global coordination efforts needed to defeat COVID-19.”
“I think it’s an extraordinarily bad decision that will both harm global public health and harm the health of the American people,” added Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
“It’s unclear to me how the American people benefit by not being at the table and not being able to shape those policies,” Jha told The Times.
Blaming the WHO for not investigating the outbreak in China is “deeply disingenuous,” Jha said. “WHO can’t push its way into China, any more than it can investigate why our outbreak is so bad in Arizona or why we’re botching the response as badly as we are.”
A former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the WHO’s achievements.
“Without WHO, the world would not have eradicated smallpox, multidrug resistant tuberculosis would have spread much more widely, and we would have much weaker systems to track influenza and other deadly infections, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, The Times reported.
“Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the @WHOin the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic and incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interestsit leaves Americans sick and America alone,” Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted Tuesday, CNN reported.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has already vowed to reverse the decision to withdraw from the WHO “on (his) first day” if elected.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.