After months of threats, the United States formally sent a letter on July 6 stating that it will withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) after 72 years of membership in the UN-sponsored body.
US President Trump had floated the idea of withdrawing from the WHO, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, after observing its response to the Covid-19 pandemic in China.
Trump had openly charged in May that “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government.” The American leader went on to state that the organization had been favorable to China and had not alerted the rest of the world in a timely fashion about the seriousness of the virus.
He had initially said that he would withdraw US membership by May, thereby depriving the organization of approximately $553 million in dues it pays to the WHO annually.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finally sent a signed letter to the WHO on Monday, July 6, formally initiating withdrawal procedures from the international body, but the process will not take effect immediately. Removing the United States from the international health organization will take one year, according to the bylaws of the WHO, per a report from the New York Times.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said on Tuesday that the US cannot be allowed to exit the organization until it had fulfilled its financial obligations. The American withdrawal would take effect, barring any such obstacles, in July of 2021.
Critics have slammed the WHO for not updating its Coronavirus guidelines in a timely manner to keep up with the changing realities on the ground around the world, or to reflect current research being conducted all around the globe.
Kentucky Representative James R. Comer voiced his approval of the move on Twitter, saying “Withdrawing the United States from the WHO was the right decision.” The Congressman declared that the WHO needs to “undergo serious reforms,” and until it does so, “it doesn’t deserve our money or our membership.”
Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden said that if he were elected in November, he would reverse the decision before it could even take effect.