US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic showed that the World Health Organisation needed to be overhauled, adding that Washington may never restore funding to the institution and could potentially set up an alternative to the intergovernmental UN body, it was revealed on late Thursday.
The US donated over $400m in 2019 and is the largest overall contributor of the body, but senior officials are mulling redirecting funds to other groups, according to sources speaking to Reuters.
The news comes after Pompeo urged in an interview a "structural fix of the WHO", stating: "Even more than that, it may be the case that the United States can never return to underwriting, having U.S. taxpayer dollars go to the WHO."
— Foro 17 (@17Foro) April 23, 2020
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) April 23, 2020
"If the institution works and functions, the United States will always lead and be part of it. When it's not delivering, when in fact it's failing to get the outcomes that are desired, we're going to work with partners around the world to deliver a structure, a form, a governance model, that will actually deliver on the intended purposes," Mr Pompeo said in a separate interview as quoted by Reuters.
The comments come as Democrats slammed the Trump administration for 'scapegoating' the WHO and urged him to restore funding to the institution, according to a letter from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The organization is not perfect, and we should thoroughly review its early handling of this crisis, particularly its engagement with Chinese authorities, and advocate for appropriate reforms. But let’s be clear: mistakes made by the WHO do not justify your halt in funding; nor do they excuse the serious failures of your Administration in confronting this pandemic," the letter reads.
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) April 23, 2020
The news comes as Trump bids for re-election in the US national elections in November, with Democrat and former vice-president to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, in a close competition with the current President.
Threats to end WHO funding will depend on who wins the presidency as Congress controls mandatory and discretionary spending, but could face an impasse from Trump-supporting Republicans.
Mr Pompeo and US officials began accusing China of leaking the coronavirus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) laboratory, without citing evidence, as well as covering up figures and mismanaging the pandemic along with the WHO, despite China being one of the world's countries to control its outbreak. Both Beijing and the World Health Organisation have denied accusations of mismanaging the pandemic or a lack of transparency.