Why Cutting Ties With the World Health Organization Is a Mistake

Trump says the U.S. is terminating its relationship with the UN organization. Here’s why that’s dangerous.

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
2 min readMay 29, 2020

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President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States will end its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations that deals with health and health crises.

It’s unclear exactly what this could mean. As Emily Rauhala of the Washington Post points out, the WHO constitution is a treaty that the U.S. ratified. At the very least it doesn’t seem like this move could happen quickly. Even so, a funding cut from the U.S. could be deeply felt by the organization.

The WHO is far from perfect and has been criticized in the past for bureaucracy that causes backlogs and a poor response to past pandemics like Ebola. While the United States may not need the WHO to respond to outbreaks stateside, many other countries do depend on the agency for medical assistance and supplies. Poor countries that do not have strong public health infrastructure lean on the agency to bolster their own responses to health crises.

Defunding the WHO — the U.S. currently funds 15% of the agency’s budget — is a dangerous mistake. As others have pointed out, containing a pandemic requires global cooperation and coordination. Poor countries need the WHO support, and the coronavirus will only stop being a threat when it’s spread can be brought under control everywhere. The organization is flawed. But cutting funding in the middle of a historic outbreak could hurt other nations and ultimately the U.S., too.

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Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that