In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, of which the United States is the new epicenter of the world with more than 600,000 cases listed, President Donald Trump decided on Tuesday, April 14, to cut food at the World Health Organization (WHO) . A UN agency that he accused in a long and violent indictment of "mismanagement" of the health crisis and "concealment" of the spread of the virus.

By suspending his country's contribution to the WHO, Donald Trump has only carried out a threat he had already uttered on April 7, after asserting that the organization, deemed too close to Chinese power, does not hadn't raised the alarm signal in time. "Its officials could have done so months earlier. They should have known the situation and probably they knew it," he said.

From the United Nations to China to the main European powers, including France, his announcement provoked many dismayed reactions around the world. Some worry about the consequences of such a decision on the future of the UN agency.

WHO's largest contributor

And for good reason, Donald Trump himself recalled : the United States contributes up to "400 to 500 million dollars per year" to the WHO, or between 12% and 13% of the agency's budget . Against, he insisted, about 40 million dollars "and even less" for China [ten times less].

Funding for the UN agency, whose total annual budget forecast for 2020-21 is around $ 5 billion, according to financial documents published on its site, comes from several sources: from member states (194 in number) , international organizations like the European Union, private donors and the UN.

Each WHO Member State pays a "fixed contribution" at the start of the year, calculated according to its wealth and population. These contributions represent only about a quarter of the total funding of the organization. The rest of the funds come largely from "voluntary contributions". Clearly: donations.

According to American media, donations from the United States, the country which contributes the most to WHO funding, represent 14.67% of all voluntary contributions made worldwide. The second largest donor is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the private organization of Microsoft founder and American billionaire, who on Wednesday denounced President Trump's decision.

"Stopping funding to the World Health Organization during a global health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work slows the spread of Covid-19 and if this work is stopped, no other organization can replace it. The world needs WHO, "said the Microsoft founder.

Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.

- Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020

According to these figures, if the suspension of American contributions, supposed to last from sixty to ninety days, is confirmed, the WHO budget would be cut by $ 400 million. A lack that would significantly weaken its action and paralyze current health initiatives.

But it is difficult to predict whether this amputation will be right for its existence, as it remains one of the most powerful UN agencies. With more than 7,000 employees (doctors, epidemiologists, scientists, managers, administrators and others), WHO has 147 country offices and six regional offices.

This is not the first time that the Trump administration has cut funding to a leading UN agency: it has already suspended its funding in recent years in favor in particular of Unesco and the UN Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), without however causing their bankruptcy.

In his first reaction to the suspension of American funds, the UN secretary general , Antonio Guterres, did not express concern about the immediate future of the agency, preferring to insist on the timing of the president's decision. of the United States, announced in the midst of the fight against Covid-19. This is "not the time to cut funding for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian agency fighting the virus," he said.

American wrath

Antonio Guterres has above all left the door open to criticism of the agency, reaffirming that there is always time to study afterwards "how did all those who were involved in the crisis react".

Despite its many health successes since its creation in 1948, such as the eradication of smallpox, the WHO is often singled out for its mode of operation: bureaucratic and overly politicized.

WHO is frequently the subject of criticism during major epidemics, issued by States or NGOs, as was the case during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2013, when it was asked to been criticized for being slow to measure the extent of the crisis. A reproach made to him today by the United States and Australia with the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN agency and its Ethiopian boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, elected in 2017 with the support of Beijing, are also accused by the Americans of having complacently validated official Chinese figures relativizing the scale of the epidemic. Figures and balance sheets that have since been openly questioned.

The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?

- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020

Even if the American president seems to refuse to take his share of responsibility in the preparation of his country to face the pandemic, by designating day after day different scapegoats, his wrath against the WHO is not unfounded according to several experts, including François Godement, adviser for Asia at the Montaigne Institute, or the sinologist Marie Holzman. "We can ask questions about the functioning of the WHO within which China exercises a very strong power since the passage at its head of Margaret Chan", she underlines in the daily Liberation , with reference to the Chinese doctor who chaired the agency between 2006 and 2017.

But , to make matters worse, Donald Trump's decision could benefit China. "The United States shoots itself in the foot because other countries will fill the void. In a global health crisis and a pandemic, the United States will lose its voice," predicted Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Center for Public Health and Human Rights.

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