Story at a glance
- Gates said in a tweet Wednesday the world needs WHO now more than ever.
- He said their work is slowing the spread of the coronavirus and no other organization can replace them.
- President Trump announced Tuesday he would halt funding pending a review for what he described as its mismanagement of the outbreak.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is calling President Trump’s decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) during the global coronavirus pandemic “as dangerous as it sounds.”
President Trump said at a White House briefing Tuesday the United States would suspend funding to the organization while officials conduct a review to assess the World Health Organization’s role in “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” Gates tweeted early Wednesday. “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever.”
Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020
The U.S. is the organization’s largest donor and has committed to provide the WHO with $893 million during its current two-year funding period, according to The Washington Post. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the family’s philanthropy, is the next biggest donor to WHO after the U.S., accounting for close to 10 percent of its funding, the outlet reports.
The president Tuesday criticized the WHO for opposing large-scale travel restrictions and accused it of failing to quickly vet and share accurate information on the coronavirus.
“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” Trump said. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
Trump said the review would last between 60 and 90 days and insisted his administration would spend the money to otherwise help combat the virus, saying “we will be able to take that money and channel it to the areas most needed.”
The president also criticized the WHO for praising China’s supposed transparency with respect to the coronavirus, despite the president himself doing the same in late January. Trump denied talking about Beijing’s transparency when pressed about his past remarks during an exchange with reporters later Tuesday. The president’s increased scrutiny of the WHO comes as he himself has been criticized for his own response to the crisis, for downplaying the threat early in the outbreak and hampering the overall response.
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The move by the president prompted backlash from the health community, with the American Medical Association (AMA) calling it a “dangerous step in the wrong direction,” urging Trump to reconsider.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also defended WHO, saying it was not the time to “reduce resources for the operations” of the agency or any other humanitarian organization working to combat the virus.
Gates has pledged $100 million towards fighting the pandemic through his foundation, and recently said his foundation is paying for the construction of facilities that will manufacture promising vaccines.
The U.S. currently leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases by the hundreds of thousands. More than 609,000 cases have been recorded, with more than 26,000 deaths, the most deaths out of any other country.
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