US halting WHO funding is unethical, says China's top epidemiologist

United States is the biggest financial contributor to the WHO for 2020-2021.
United States is the biggest financial contributor to the WHO for 2020-2021.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - By halting funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United States is only trying to divert attention from its failure to handle its domestic coronavirus epidemic, China's top epidemiologist said on Wednesday (April 15), adding that the US decision is "unethical", Global Times reported.

In a speech at the White House, US President Donald Trump accused the WHO of "severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus".

Mr Trump criticised the international health agency for making a "disastrous" decision to oppose travel restrictions from China.

"This is a very bad sign, but can the US defeat its domestic epidemic by halting funding to the WHO?" asked Dr Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Zeng told the Global Times that the world is making efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and now is the right time for the WHO to play its role, but the US is only trying to divert attention by halting funding to the organisation.

"The US has not responded to the epidemic properly and its accusations against the WHO go against the facts. This is unethical and will only make it more isolated in the world.

"It is no longer a world of unilateralism, but multilateralism," Dr Zeng said, noting that the US withdrawal of funds may not have a domino effect, as other countries may not follow the US lead.

According to the WHO, its programme funds come mainly from two sources - assessed contributions made by member states relative to their wealth and population, and voluntary contributions.

The US is the biggest financial contributor to the WHO for 2020-2021, accounting for 22 per cent of the total assessed contributions from the organisation's member states, according to WHO data.

 
 
 
 

Dr Zeng said the US suspension of funds to the WHO won't impact the international health organisation in its sharing of information with the world, but may result in a shortage of funds for staff salaries and some projects.

As the US has yet to declare that it will withdraw from the WHO, US officials will continue to attend WHO meetings, which is quite disgraceful, Dr Zeng said.

Commenting on whether China is considering increasing its funding for the WHO, Dr Zeng said it is within China's capability to support the organisation financially, but the WHO should not be backed only by one nation.

Nations around the world should jointly increase support for the WHO, otherwise the US may use this as an excuse to attack other countries, Dr Zeng said.

The data issued by the WHO said China accounted for 12 per cent of total assessed contributions for the 2020-2021 period.

Assessed contributions have declined as an overall percentage of the programme budget and have accounted for less than one quarter of the organisation's financing for years. The balance is made up through voluntary contributions, the WHO said.

But assessed contributions by member states remain a key source of financing for the WHO, as it provides a level of predictability and helps to minimise dependence on a narrow donor base, allowing resources to be aligned to the programme budget, Global Times reported.