"Trump has committed a crime against humanity by suspending WHO funding"

15 April 2020, 16:44 | Updated: 15 April 2020, 16:47

By Fiona Jones

This science editor told Shelagh Fogarty why President Trump's decision to suspend WHO funding is a "crime against humanity."

President Donald Trump has announced he will suspend all US funding of the World Health Organisation (WHO), accusing them of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump said the organisation "failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable". He said the WHO chose "political correctness" over supporting travel restrictions.

Lancet Medical Journal editor-in-chief Richard Horton called the President's actions "devastating", especially as the US' contribution to WHO makes up a fifth of their total budget.

"He basically alleged that they had blood on their hands for supposedly covering up, were the words he used, the epidemic.

"I was outraged, I watched the whole of his speech and I've never seen a series of one lie following another lie like that in my professional career. That's why I've called it a crime against humanity."

Mr Horton said the President cannot be stopped and if he does not want to fund a fifth of their budget, he does not have to.

"What I think needs to be made very clear is he's committed an act of violence against people around the world. We have 215 countries, regions and territories that have been affected by this pandemic. People are dying worldwide.

Trump announced funding suspension on WHO during the global crisis
Trump announced funding suspension on WHO during the global crisis. Picture: PA

"We're in the middle of this, it hasn't even hit Africa properly yet and what you need in a situation like that is a strong international coordinating body that can bring all of the evidence together to help countries decide what to do.

"If you defund WHO to the tune of a fifth of its budget in the middle of a pandemic, you are putting the world in grave danger. Why would he do this? It's an inexplicable decision."

Having spoken to WHO officials in China and Europe Mr Horton thinks there is a misunderstanding of what has taken place;
when Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan they managed it locally and did not inform Beijing.

"There was a degree of hiding the outbreak in those early stages but eventually the news got through to Beijing and Beijing immediately told WHO on December 31st and after that the WHO in Geneva and the Chinese government worked incredibly hard to sequence the virus, to understand the nature of what this outbreak was, to understand the risk, and then write papers to tell the world."

"On January 30 a situation on international concern was declared. So within a month the world went from knowing nothing to declaring a public health emergency of international concern. That's not a cover up."

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