State to reassign officials as part of WHO withdrawal

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U.S. officials working with the World Health Organization (WHO) will be reassigned as part of President Trump’s directive to withdraw from the global health body, a State Department spokesperson said Thursday.

Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services who are assigned to the WHO will be recalled from their positions over the course of a year as part of an effort to scale down U.S. participation with the organization, Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson for the State Department, said in a statement. 

The process is expected to last until July 6, the day the U.S. withdrawal from the WHO becomes effective, Ortagus said. 

The U.S. is leaving itself open to participate in WHO technical meetings and events, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis, the statement continued. 

Trump announced in May that the U.S. was “terminating” its relationship with the WHO amid his criticism that the organization did not effectively handle the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and charges that the global health body was biased in favor of China. 

The move has drawn rebukes from global health advocates and bipartisan criticism from those who say it will isolate the U.S. from global cooperation to confront the pandemic.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the organization on his first day in office if elected.

Trump had suspended funding for the WHO ahead of his May announcement, freezing an estimated $62 million, according to the State Department. 

Ortagus said those remaining funds will instead be diverted to “other U.N. assessments.”

“The United States has long been the world’s most generous provider of health and humanitarian assistance to people around the world. This assistance is provided with the support of the American taxpayer with the reasonable expectation that it serve an effective purpose and reach those in need,” Ortagus said. “Unfortunately, the World Health Organization has failed badly by those measures, not only in its response to COVID-19, but to other health crises in recent decades. In addition, WHO has declined to adopt urgently needed reforms, starting with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Updated at 10:09 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Joe Biden State Department WHO

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