WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States will assess if the World Health Organisation (WHO) is being run properly following President Donald Trump’s pause in US funding to the global body, the acting head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Wednesday (April 22).
Washington will also use this time to look for alternative partners outside the WHO to continue to carry out “important work” such as on vaccines, to ensure there is no disruption to US aid efforts, added John Barsa, who heads USAID, the key US government agency that administers foreign aid.
Separately, the United States announced more than US$270 million (S$38 million) in additional foreign assistance provided by Congress to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Barsa told reporters the review would be “all-encompassing”and said there were many management questions, including how the WHO has held “member states accountable” for their actions.
“Is the management of the World Health Organisation running it the way it should be run?,” was the key question, he said.
Trump announced a halt to US funding for the Geneva-based WHO last week while Washington reviews the organisation’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has accused WHO of promoting Chinese “disinformation” about the virus, saying this had probably worsened the outbreak.
WHO officials defended the agency’s handling of the pandemic, saying it alerted member states of the outbreak earlier in the year.
Jim Richardson, USAID’s director of foreign assistance, said U.S. aid would continue despite the pause, saying that “for… every dollar flowing today, we’re just taking WHO off the table and we are going to provide that assistance” to other groups.
Civil rights groups have previously criticised the Trump administration for favouring groups aligned with its ideology.
In 2017, Trump reinstated a policy requiring foreign nongovernmental organisations that receive US family planning funds to certify they do not provide abortions or give abortion advice, drawing ire from abortion rights advocates.
Neither official identified which groups might get money previously destined for the WHO, nor did they say what the agency needed to do to resume receiving US funds.
However, they said Washington would look at whether local community-based entities and faith-based organisations, some of which Washington already works with, can take over as partners.
They also said the effort to diversify aid partners had begun before the WHO review and the global coronavirus outbreak.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing over US$400 million in 2019, roughly 15 per cent of its budget.
Senior US officials last week told Reuters Washington could redirect these funds to other aid groups.