I am writing to encourage continued United States support for the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO works in 150 countries to combat infectious diseases such as influenza and HIV and non-communicable illnesses including cancer and heart disease. Its valuable work benefits Iowans and people around the world.
In recent weeks the Trump administration has threatened to cutting off U.S. contributions to the WHO, charging that the agency failed to provide timely warnings and response to the coronavirus outbreak. WHO declared the spread of the coronavirus to be a public health emergency on January 30.
It is now clear that most national governments — including the United States — were slow in recognizing and acting on the threat.
Reducing or eliminating the U.S. contribution to the WHO would be shortsighted and self-defeating. The agency plays a vital role in coordinating international response to the pandemic, especially in the most vulnerable countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is working with national governments to prepare for the outbreak, training health care workers, and — perhaps most importantly — coordinating international work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Defunding WHO will undermine the agency’s other lifesaving work including, for example, the continuing campaign to eradicate polio.
Finger-pointing may be politically popular. It will not impede the pandemic. U.S. leadership in international efforts to curb COVID-19, including support for the WHO, is essential.