Could World Health Organization Have Required China to Act?

The World Health Organization (WHO), like other agencies of the United Nations (UN), has no power or authority over China. It provides leadership to set up plans and goals to tackle and eradicate diseases and improve healthcare. But it does not have any control over the domestic agenda and operations of a given country unless that government grants or delegates a specific power to it such as vaccinating its citizens against polio. China, the US or any other country could accept and take its assistance or reject it.

President Trump’s assertion that WHO should have required the Chinese government to take certain actions regarding COVID-19 is unfair. China has and does maintain total control and sovereignty over its citizens. WHO is not perfect and needs reform, but since 1948, it has done a magical job in the betterment of the human lot in all corners of our world. And it is desperately needed now to reduce the carnage of COVID-19.

President Trump has now cut all of the US funding of WHO. Out of its current annual budget of under $3 billion, WHO is supposed to receive about 20% from US, less than $600 million. The US share of the total world income is 22%, or, $21 trillion out of $95 trillion. So, we have given less than 0.003% of our annual Gross Domestic Product to it (a relatively minuscule sum to combat the types of diseases which are now haunting us.) Plus, much of that money has come back to the US pharmaceutical and medical supply companies to purchase products. Countries contribute to UN agencies such as WHO based on their national income and population size. At a time international cooperation is desperately needed to fight COVID-19, we are in the process of taking steps that will not only aggravate the misery around the world but come back to hurt the people in the US. This is an international virus. America’s nuclear arsenal is useless. We must unite to fight this calamity together, medically.

Actions that weaken and marginalize the UN and its agencies will be damaging to US interests. Blaming a UN agency unjustly is counterproductive. The US has been and must stay a leader within the UN system. The President needs to strengthen the organization for America’s own benefits. We need to appeal to our President, to Congress, and to the American people to reverse this deadly decision..

M. Jay Shahidi

Member, National Council, United Nations Association of the USA

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