By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on April 16, 2020
On Tuesday, April 14, President Trump announced a total halt to U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), pending an indefinite review period, a move to deflect blame from Trump’s own mishandling of the crisis. Coming as it does in the midst of a global pandemic, this funding cut will be catastrophic. The United States is the world’s largest single contributor to the WHO—a United Nations body charged with protecting public health across the globe. A suspension of U.S. funds to the agency will mean a loss of roughly 10% of its total annual budget, in the midst of the biggest global public health crisis in modern history.
Trump’s action will condemn people around the globe to needless suffering and death. As has been true throughout the pandemic so far, the worst impact will be experienced by people who are already confronting long-standing structural injustices, including racism, colonialism, and poverty. UUSC’s partners around the globe are already seeing the toll from the virus—and are working to respond— in situations where the disease is exacerbating already grave humanitarian crises caused by climate change, genocide, and xenophobic policies, and often in countries with fragile health care systems.
The administration’s attack against the World Health Organization is congruent with Trump’s stated “America First” approach to global institutions. It is the same spirit that has informed the U.S. government’s decision to withdraw from multilateral agreements, slash annual quotas for refugee admissions, and abrogate our responsibilities to asylum-seekers under international law.
Yet a global pandemic reveals with particular urgency the hollowness and iniquity of trying to place one country “first,” ahead of the needs of our intertwined human family. In addition to being cruel in their own right, such policies are inevitably self-defeating: without the resources for a coordinated public health response, the coronavirus will continue its rapid spread, with consequences here in the United States as well as around the world.
The current global pandemic has vividly demonstrated in recent months that a threat to any of us is truly a threat to all of us. We are part of an interdependent web, and harm to any one part of that web will be felt by the entire human community. Likewise, all that we do to strengthen institutions meant to serve the common good, like the WHO, inevitably also make our own people stronger, safer, and more resilient. We urge Congress to do everything possible to override President Trump’s ill-considered, short-sighted, and cruel funding cut.
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About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!