Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

Amid plans to quit, US will not pay what it owes WHO this year

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States has said that it will not pay some US$80 million (S$109 million) it currently owes to the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO) and will instead redirect the money to help pay its United Nations bill in New York, a US official said on Wednesday (Sept 2).

The US plans to leave WHO on July 6 next year, after President Donald Trump accused it of becoming a puppet for China during the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO rejected Mr Trump’s assertions.

A WHO spokesman said on Thursday in an e-mail response to a request for comment: “We refer you to our previous statements of regret regarding the US decision to withdraw. We await further details, which we will consider carefully.” 

Under a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress, Mr Trump had to give one-year notice of the US withdrawal from the WHO and is required to pay what Washington owes for the organisation’s current fiscal year.

Ms Nerissa Cook, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Organisation Affairs, said the US currently owes the WHO some US$18 million for financial year 2019 and US$62 million for financial year 2020.

“Those together are being reprogrammed to the UN to pay the regular UN assessment,” said Ms Cook on Wednesday (Sept 2), referring to money that Washington is required to pay the United Nations in New York.

Dr Alma Golden, assistant administrator for global health at the US Agency for International Development, said that in most cases Washington had identified new partners to continue the global health assistance it had carried out with the WHO.

But she said a one-time payment of US$68 million would be made to the WHO for health assistance in Libya and Syria and efforts to eradicate polio in priority countries because these “reflect the few cases in which WHO has the unique capability that an alternate partner could not replicate at this time”.

Mr Trump’s political rival, former vice-president Joe Biden, has said he would rejoin the WHO if he defeats Mr Trump in a November election.

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