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U.S. withdrawal from WHO: a globally "unsupported" decision

(People's Daily Online)    13:31, July 10, 2020

With the coronavirus continuing to spread across the world, the U.S. decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) has been unanimously condemned by U.S. politicians and organizations as well as the international community.

World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo from WHO’s official page on Weibo

The UN Secretary-General is in the process of verifying with the WHO whether all the conditions for the withdrawal are being met, according to the UN Secretary-General spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

U.S. politicians: decision will make Americans more vulnerable

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said if elected president, his administration would reverse the decision. The Associated Press (AP) said that President Trump, who is lagging behind Biden in several opinion polls, has sought to avoid criticism of his government's failure to effectively fight the epidemic by fiercely attacking China and the WHO.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also criticized the move. "This won't protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick and America alone," he said.

"Cutting the United States out of the World Health Organization in the middle of the worst global pandemic in a century makes Americans more vulnerable," said Jeff Merkley, another U.S. Senator from the Committee, in a statement. ”By abandoning the efforts to control the virus abroad, we’re ensuring that far more Americans will get sick, either through foreign travelers coming to the U.S., or through Americans traveling abroad."

The U.S. withdrawal from the WHO is “an act of true senselessness,” said U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate health committee, also sharply criticized Trump's decision to withdraw from the WHO. “If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen,” he said.

U.S. medical circle: decision will prolong pandemic

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and around the world continues to rise, even as the U.S. formally announced its decision to withdraw from the WHO.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, and American Medical Association expressed strong opposition to this “short-sighted decision”.

"We call on Congress to reject the administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution. Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back,” said the organizations.

In a letter to Congress dated June 30, 750 experts in global health and international law stated that "withdrawal will likely cost lives, American and foreign" to COVID-19 by cutting crucial funds to WHO's health emergencies program for testing, contact tracing and vaccine development, and prolonging the pandemic.

As well as warning about the impact on efforts to control the pandemic, the letter also predicted that a U.S. withdrawal could roll back years of progress combating diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS.

The withdrawal may also jeopardize U.S. access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, says Lindsay Wiley, a law professor at American University. "Given that our vaccine manufacturing capabilities within the U.S. are limited, to withdraw from the organization at this stage in the crisis, when we're on the cusp of developing a safe and effective vaccine and thinking about how to distribute it, would be a dire mistake," she says.

Global organizations: decision will hamper global fight against epidemic

In the face of a global pandemic, the U.S.’s move to withdraw from the WHO “is short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous,” said Elizabeth Cousen, United Nations Foundation President, in a statement.

The statement pointed out: "WHO is the only body capable of leading and coordinating the global response to COVID-19. Terminating the U.S. relationship would undermine the global effort to beat this virus – putting all of us at risk."

"Thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the front lines: the world needs WHO. This move signals a dangerous gamble in the midst of a pandemic we have yet to conquer, and without a viable alternative to WHO," Loyce Pace, president and executive director of Global Health Council, said in an interview with CNN. 

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