The U.S. formally notified the World Health Organization (WHO) it would be withdrawing from the United Nations’ arm focused on global health.

While announced on July 6, the official departure would not take place until July 2021.

This action follows a mid-April declaration by President Trump that U.S. payments to WHO would be halted, during which time an investigation would be conducted into the organization’s practices.

“Under the terms of the withdrawal, the U.S. must meet its financial obligations to the WHO before it can be finalized,” AP reported. “The U.S., which is the agency’s largest donor and provides it with more than $450 million per year, currently owes the WHO some $200 million in current and past dues.”

According to an FAQ on the WHO website, funding for the organization comes from member states’ annual dues, as well as additional, voluntary contributions from member states and other partner groups.

The U.S. is the largest financial supporter, providing $851.6 million in the 2018-19 biennium, followed by the United Kingdom ($463.4 million), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($455.3 million), the GAVI Alliance ($388.7 million) and Germany ($358.8 million).

Good Faith Media reached out to several faith leaders for their reaction and response to the administration’s withdrawal announcement.

“Like all organizations, the WHO has made mistakes, but it remains a vital network for strengthening collaboration and strategic response,” said Elijah M. Brown, general secretary and CEO of the Baptist World Alliance. “In the midst of a global pandemic, it is disappointing that the United States would choose to withdraw support and further erode institutions and relationships that foster health and well-being at a global level.

“Millions mourn the loss of loved ones and livelihoods, tens of millions face reemerging hunger, and 480 million people worldwide are being forced to step back into conditions of absolute poverty due to the impacts of COVID-19,” he said. “This decision by the United States not only hampers worldwide response to the greatest global pandemic in 100 years, but it also imperils a range of ongoing coordinated WHO responses to Ebola, leprosy and malaria that will further jeopardize lives.”

Brown concluded, “As faith leaders, we hold onto the biblical convictions both to pray for our governments and to work to honor the inherent dignity in all people by nurturing the seeds of compassion and just peace.”

Scott Stearman, pastor of Metro Baptist Church in New York City, compared the Trump administration to “church-hoppers” whose answers to faults, flaws and political divisions “is to jump ship rather than fix the leaky boat.”

“WHO is imperfect in several ways, and the abandonment of our membership in WHO will only exacerbate those problems,” Stearman said, who serves as a U.N. representative for the Baptist World Alliance and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “One need only glance at the scope (keeping the entire globe healthy) and the accountability (in some sense reporting to every member country) to see that WHO, by definition, will be unsuccessful. But it is the only global organization with its mandate.

“And in spite of its recent failures, the current pandemic would be exponentially worse without its essential work,” he said. “If anything, we need to increase our contribution to the mission of WHO. It’s the world’s only hope of avoiding another COVID-catastrophy.”

Photo: Thorkild Tylleskar / Wikipedia Commons ( cropped

Share This