US’ WHO withdrawal hampers Covid measures

The novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world. At a time when the international community should come together to work on countermeasures, it is difficult to understand the taking of unilateral actions that hamper cooperation.

The US has officially notified the UN that it will withdraw from the World Health Organisation (WHO). If the US fulfills the prerequisite conditions, the withdrawal will take effect one year after the notification. The root of this action is apparently US President Donald Trump’s strong dissatisfaction with the UN agency, saying, “China has total control over the WHO”.

When coronavirus infections first spread in China, the reality is that the WHO failed to deal appropriately with the issue, exposing problems in the way information is transmitted and maintaining neutrality. The WHO is requested to carry out impartial reviews and organisational reform.

The withdrawal of the US from the WHO, however, will not necessarily improve the situation. Is it really possible to say it is better for the organisation serving as the headquarters for coronavirus measures to be shaken and China’s influence in it to be expanded?

Since the WHO’s foundation in 1948 under the US leadership, the agency has played a major role in fighting polio and other infectious diseases and improving public health. It stations staff in more than 150 countries and is indispensable for developing countries lacking in medical information and supplies.

The US contributes to about 16 per cent of the WHO budget. WHO activities will inevitably be dealt a blow if the body cannot obtain such funds from the US government. There is a fear that the cooperative system between the US and other countries to develop coronavirus vaccines and therapeutic drugs could also be adversely affected.

Trump has argued that being bound by international organisations and multilateral agreements “disadvantages the US”. The US government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international framework for measures against global warming, was also based on the same logic.

Global challenges, such as the spread of infectious diseases and climate change, cannot be addressed by a single country. Trump lacks that perception. If the withdrawal from the WHO makes it impossible for the US to quickly obtain information collected by the WHO, it would harm US interests.

The number of those infected with the virus in the US is the highest in the world, exceeding three million people. It must be said that Trump is irresponsible if he is targeting the WHO to try to avoid having his administration be criticised ahead of the presidential election in November.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive challenger to Trump in the presidential race, expressed his view that the US will remain in the WHO if he is elected. The final decision on whether the US will withdraw will depend on the outcome of the election.

Trump’s “America First” policy or Biden’s international cooperation policy? US voters face a critical choice.