The Trump administration has notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization, multiple officials tell CNN, a move that comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the Americas over the past week.
The withdrawal, which goes into effect next July, has drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations and allies abroad. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted the news Tuesday.
Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the @WHOin the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests—it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he wrote.
A State Department official also confirmed that “the United States’ notice of withdrawal, effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the UN Secretary-General, who is the depository for the WHO.” The spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met.” Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations.”
The letter addressed to the UN is very short, around three sentences, a source briefed on the correspondence told CNN, and it triggers a one-year withdrawal timeline. However, this source also cautioned that they cannot confirm they saw the final version of the letter.
Among its current functions, the WHO is attempting to coordinate efforts to get personal safety and medical equipment, like ventilators, to hospitals around the world. Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the UN Foundation, said the organization is “indispensable” in the fight against Covid-19.
Loyce Pace, president and executive director of Global Health Council, echoed that point, telling CNN: “Thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the frontlines: 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.”
Some have warned that withdrawal in the current environment could also interfere with clinical trials essential for developing vaccines, as well as efforts to trace the spread of the virus globally.
‘Short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous’
President Donald Trump said he was halting funding to the organization in mid-April and announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO in May after he said it “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms.” Trump had denounced the US’ contribution to the WHO — $400-500 million — in comparison to China’s and consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.
While lawmakers from both parties have long cited systemic problems with the WHO, many have also denounced the President’s decision to withdraw during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “is an act of true senselessness.” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he disagreed with Trump’s decision.
“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.
Last month, despite alleging that the World Health Organization “enabled” the Chinese government’s sweeping cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic’s origins, members of the GOP China task force urged Trump to reconsider his decision to terminate relations with the international body, arguing that the US can do more to affect change as a member.