World Health Organization

US govt issues directives for its diplomats to minimise engagement with WHO: Report

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Weeks after Donald Trump announced that the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO), the White House has reportedly ordered US diplomats to minimize engagement with the UN health agency. As per a report by news publication Foreign Policy, the State Department has issued a new set of orders for American officials aimed at curtailing its diplomatic affairs with the WHO.

According to the report, the State Department has issued various directives to reduce US diplomats’ engagement with WHO’s officials while allowing them to interact in “specific, limited circumstances”. As per the directives, they are also required to seek prior approval from the State Department before participating in any WHO-related meeting or public events.

In addition, the Trump administration has drafted a plan to reform the World Health Organization and distributed it to WHO Director-General Tedros and other members of the G7 economies. Aiming at boosting WHO’s response against emerging outbreaks, the draft contains a wide range of proposals such as establishing an early warning system to detect global health threats.

While President Trump has formally announced Washington’s withdrawal from the WHO amid the pandemic crisis, American diplomats have taking efforts to secure some US influence in the UN health agency, taking cognizance of its significance in tackling global health challenges. Experts have suggested that at a time when the US is grappling with the pandemic crisis, it still needs the UN health agency’s help to counter various other infectious diseases such as polio and HIV.

The United States will have to serve one-year notice at the Geneva-based body till July 6, 2021, and pay all remaining dues as part of a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress. According to the WHO website, the US owes the global health agency over $200 million in assessed contributions.

A number of public health experts, lawmakers, and government officials have expressed discontent with the US President’s withdrawal decision and cutting funds to the WHO at a time when the country and the world are struggling to contain the virus.

The US President has accused the international health organization of favoring China and mishandling the Coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has asserted to reverse Trump’s decision if elected in the 2020 US elections scheduled to take place in November.

In 2018-2019, the United States was the biggest contributor to the WHO, providing total funding of $893 million which accounts for approximately 15 percent of the biennial budget of the agency. Now, a cutback in funding would paralyze the WHO’s capacity to respond to global health emergencies and jeopardize its various public health campaigns.

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