Funding the World Health Organization Is Money Down a Rat Hole

Betsy McCaughey, President Donald Trump is taking heavy criticism for his announcement on Friday that the U.S. is “terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization.”

But the evidence is mounting that the $450 million the U.S. spends yearly on WHO is money down a rat hole.

On Monday, the Associated Press revealed how the WHO lied to the world about China’s initial cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak. Those lies, which delayed other countries’ responses to the virus, caused hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. The AP gained access to recordings of internal WHO meetings in January. Those recordings capture WHO officials discussing how to keep China’s secretive conduct under wraps, even as WHO kept praising China publicly. That sugarcoating left the world unaware and unprepared for the pandemic about to hit.

Even without this damning new information, Trump would have been right to pull American dollars and prestige out of the WHO. The organization has an abysmal record dealing with previous global diseases, from SARS to H1N1 flu and Ebola. In the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Harvard Global Health Institute Director Ashish Jha wrote of the growing skepticism toward the WHO because it “often fails to perform when the world needs it most.”

Look at how WHO spends its money. Only 4% goes for medical supplies. Double that is spent on air travel, and 10 times that on staff salaries and perks. WHO is a bloated, cushy bureaucracy.

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Don’t confuse WHO with the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or other organizations delivering care to the sick. On Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien suggested the U.S. will shift its support to such front-line care.

WHO spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year hosting meetings, paying for business class travel and top hotels, and turning a blind eye when senior staff go “with girlfriends on fabricated missions,” according to an AP investigation. Why should U.S. taxpayers, who kick in $450 million a year, the most from any nation, pay for global junkets?

In the AP’s latest revelations, WHO’s top staff are recorded discussing behind closed doors how China is concealing the virus, while publicly praising China for transparency.

China had mapped the genetic makeup of the virus by Jan. 2 but withheld the information until Jan. 11. Worse, it concealed until Jan. 20 that the virus is contagious, even though Wuhan hospitals were flooded with patients. By the time China locked down Wuhan, some 5 million residents had fled, carrying the disease across the world.

“It’s obvious that we could have saved more lives and avoided many, many deaths if China and the WHO had acted faster,” explains the University of Washington’s Ali Mokdad.

Yet, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus whitewashed China’s deception. “The speed with which China detected the outbreak, isolated the virus, sequenced the genome, and shared it with WHO and the world are very impressive and beyond words,” Tedros announced on Jan. 30. He called it a “new standard of outbreak response.”

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The communist standard — lie and let hundreds of thousands die. The same thing happened when China tried to hide SARS in 2003.

When Trump suspended WHO’s funding in April, Tedros pompously lectured: “Don’t use this virus as an opportunity to fight against each other or score political points.” Tedros needs to look in the mirror.

He’s the one playing politics, barring Taiwan from participating in two emergency coronavirus meetings. Taiwan had some of the earliest cases and was the first to tip off the WHO that the coronavirus was likely contagious. But any concessions to Taiwan infuriate Beijing, and that’s where Tedros’s loyalty lies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims the president, without Congress’s approval, doesn’t have the constitutional authority to hold back WHO funding or pull the U.S. from the organization. Let the lawyers haggle over that. Trump’s got the big picture. WHO is not worthy of U.S. support. WHO puts politics ahead of the world’s health and blows our tax money on travel boondoggles and high living for its staff.

Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York. Contact her at betsy@betsymccaughey.com.