Announced termination of the U.S. relationship with WHO is damaging and dangerous amid global COVID-19 outbreak

Washington, DC

May 29, 2020


Megan Rabbitt

United Nations Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens released the following statement in response to the U.S. announcement that it will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO):

“We are deeply disappointed with the Administration’s announcement that it plans to terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization.  Any move of this kind will severely impede the world’s ability to tackle COVID-19, compromise other critical health needs, and undermine the safety of Americans.

“Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have consistently worked to fully fund the World Health Organization, in keeping with a long, proud, bipartisan tradition of U.S. leadership in global public health. Congressional leaders have also spoken out in favor of U.S. cooperation with WHO to help respond to the unprecedented crisis we face with COVID-19. They understand that without combatting the disease everywhere, all Americans are at risk. Withdrawing support for the World Health Organization in the midst of the greatest pandemic the world has faced in over 100 years is dangerous and short-sighted.

“WHO is the primary institution with the technical capacity and mandate to support all countries at this critical time, and it must have the resources it needs for urgent, frontline response, in addition to maintaining the critical essential health services on which billions around the world rely.

“WHO has a presence in more than 150 countries, a membership of 194 member states and the trust of governments around the world.  Governments rely on WHO’s guidance on how to battle COVID-19 and many other illnesses, and billions of people have access to WHO’s evidence-based information in dozens of languages.

“WHO is the only agency in the world capable of coordinating unprecedented global trials on therapeutics and vaccines, including the groundbreaking scope of the “Solidarity Trial” with more than 100 countries participating.

“From the outset of this crisis, WHO recognized that testing needed to form the backbone of the global response, and they have procured and distributed millions of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other vital health commodities like tests and testing supplies for at least 133 countries.

“Terminating the U.S. relationship with WHO will harm the global response to COVID-19 and other essential health services, especially in developing countries whose people are more vulnerable because health systems have fewer resources.

“Beyond its urgent work on COVID-19, WHO is also central to the fight against other major health threats that matter to Americans. The bulk of U.S. funds to WHO help save lives and give hope to populations around the world facing diseases like polio, malaria, measles, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, including in humanitarian hotspots like Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Globally, people already facing severe health challenges will be dealt a cruel double blow if WHO is unable to carry out its work.

“By terminating its relationship with the world’s premiere global health organization, the U.S. will be abdicating its long-held leadership role on the world stage, a role other nations are all too eager to fill.”