The US may be out of the World Health Organization as of July 6, 2021, after President Donald Trump submitted a notice of withdrawal, it was reported on Tuesday. It’s the first formal step in an exit from the WHO, which Trump announced in May.
The one-year advance notice was submitted to the UN secretary-general, according to a senior administration official, and it comes while the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the US from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez tweeted. “It leaves Americans sick & America alone.”
Elizabeth Cousens, UN Foundation CEO, called the decision “dangerous and short-sighted amid a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
“Terminating the relationship undermines the global effort to beat this virus,” Cousens added.
Hillary Clinton called it “a self-inflicted disaster.” Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, said “the president is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus.” Trump has yet to tweet about it.
Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, said he will rejoin the WHO on his first day as president if elected in November. “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health,” Biden tweeted.
The WHO said in an emailed statement that it has received reports that the US submitted formal notification to the UN secretary-general that it is withdrawing effective July 6, 2021, but had no further information or comment. The Chinese Embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe. There are now over 11.6 million confirmed cases globally, with almost 3 million cases and over 130,000 deaths in the US, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. A vaccine may not arrive until 2021.
Trump announced his decision over a month ago to terminate the US relationship with the WHO over allegations about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the US will be “directing those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said at the time.
The president’s reasoning behind terminating support included allegations that the WHO worked with China to “mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.” He alleged that “China has total control over the World Health Organization.” Trump further alleged that China covered up the coronavirus and “ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization.”
The World Health Organization works to combat diseases globally, working with governments, other health organizations, foundations, professional associations, the UN, and others. It helps direct and coordinate international health responses and systems, including preparing, surveilling, and responding to pandemics and other health issues. It also helps monitor and coordinate vaccine development.
The US is the biggest funder of the WHO. It’s unclear if the president can withdraw the US from the organization and end funding without Congress.