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Research leaders decry US decision to leave WHO

Image: US Mission Geneva [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Trump’s move denounced as ‘dangerous and harmful’ for global health

President Donald Trump has provoked widespread criticism from global leaders in health and academia by formally notifying the United Nations that he would withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization.

“It is unthinkable and highly irresponsible to withdraw funding from the WHO during one of the greatest health challenges of our lifetime,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the UK-based research charity the Wellcome Trust, on 8 July. He added that the decision—taken as the US continues to struggle with the Covid-19 pandemic—“will have catastrophic implications, leaving the US and global health weaker as a result”.

Trump’s 7 July move followed a warning in May from the US president, who told WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus then that he wanted reforms at the organisation. In April Trump temporarily halted funding to the WHO, which he accused of working with China to cover up information on Covid-19.

Medics and health researchers have expressed outrage—but little surprise—at the decision.

The leaders of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians said it was “a major setback to science, public health and global coordination efforts needed to defeat Covid-19”.

Writing in the British Medical Journal on 4 June, Adam Kamradt-Scott, a professor of security studies at the University of Sydney, said, “Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the WHO is not only unwise, it is dangerous and harmful, ultimately only perpetrated in an attempt to shore up his electoral prospects for November.”

A spokesperson for the WHO said, “We know US has submitted formal notification to the UN Secretary General that it is withdrawing from WHO effective 6 July 2021.”