• Henry Huang

The US Officially Withdraws from WHO

On July 7, the United States has officially withdrawn from the World Health Organization. President Trump announced the US withdraw back in late May, claiming that the WHO has been heavily influenced by the Chinese government. This withdraw will be effective on July 6, 2021.

The decision to withdraw has drawn backlashes. Last week, global health experts testified at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, claiming that withdrawing from WHO is tragic and deeply unwise. Both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing this move as well. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, has expressed his dissatisfaction on Twitter, saying, ”To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn't do it justice. This won't protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone.” Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, stated, ”certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it.”

This withdrawal escalates the tension between the White House and the WHO. The struggle between WHO and the President began months ago. In April, the President has put the funding towards WHO on hold after conducting a review of the relationship between WHO and the United States. Weeks after, in the middle of May, President Trump sent a strongly worded letter to the demand WHO to take strong measures to deliver “major substantive improvements.” The WHO did not respond to this demand. Furthermore, the President has been criticizing WHO for being too friendly to China. Some critics have pointed out that WHO has been too trusting to China in the early stage of coronavirus which caused overlooking of important signals for coronavirus.

However, there are potential negative consequences for the United States withdrawing from the WHO. As the health experts pointed out, the WHO is far from perfect, yet it is still important that the organization plays an important role in global public health. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard Global Health Institute, “During this pandemic when we have many, many difficult months ahead of us, walking away from WHO, I believe, makes controlling the virus globally harder and makes it harder to manage the virus here at home,” he said. “Walking away from WHO leaves us without a voice at the table to better manage the disease globally.”

Furthermore, some international experts also believe that this withdrawal will give China more influence within the WHO in the future. As China has become more active with international institutions, this withdrawal could create a great opportunity for China to further strengthen its influence in international institutions.

However, as the withdrawal of the WHO is only effective one year later, this leaves space for the decision to be reversed. The president has also declared that the funding will be used to deal with domestic health issues.

Henry Huang is a Policy Correspondent for The National Times.