The United States is facing increasing criticism for its withdrawal Monday from the World Health Organization (WHO).
China denounced the U.S. decision. Foreign ministry official Zhao Lijian said the withdrawal will weaken international efforts to fight the COVID-19 health crisis. He added that the damage would especially hurt developing countries where the need for aid is urgent.
Zhao spoke to reporters Wednesday in Beijing. He praised the work of the WHO, describing it as “the most authoritative and professional international” organization dealing with public health security.
The U.S. withdrawal will not take effect for a year as required by the WHO constitution. The U.S. also is required to pay any membership fees it owes the United Nations agency.
Health officials and opponents to President Donald Trump’s administration also criticized the decision to withdraw. Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden said he would cancel the withdrawal on his first day in office if elected in November. Americans are safer when the U.S. is involved in worldwide health efforts, Biden said.
Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called the withdrawal “an act of true senselessness.” She wrote in a Twitter message, “With millions of lives at risk, the president is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus.”
For months, Trump has criticized the WHO’s effort to deal with COVID-19. He accuses the organization of surrendering to Chinese pressure to mislead the public about the disease. In April, Trump suspended U.S. financial support for the WHO. In May, he said the United States planned to withdraw.
The president’s supporters agree that the WHO has had failings in the COVID-19 crisis. But, not all necessarily support Trump’s decision to withdraw.
American lawmaker Lamar Alexander leads the U.S. Senate’s health committee. In a statement Tuesday, he agreed that the WHO’s COVID-19 actions should be examined. But he added, “the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it.”
The U.S. was among the countries that established the World Health Organization in 1948. It is its largest donor, as well, providing more than $450 million to the agency every year. America leads the world with the most COVID-19 cases – over 3 million, and more than 131,000 deaths.
U.S. health experts called the president’s decision shortsighted and destructive of international cooperation in fighting all diseases.
Thomas File Jr., president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said the withdrawal leaves the U.S. at greater risk of COVID-19 as it will not be part of international efforts to “develop and access vaccines.” He said the U.S. would also face greater danger in future pandemics without WHO membership.
The World Health Organization said it will send a team of experts to China this weekend. It said the team would study how the new coronavirus started and made the jump from animals to humans.
I’m Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in This Story
authoritative -adj. having or showing impressive knowledge about a subject
crippling -adj. to make (something) unable to work normally: to cause great damage to (something)
access -n. a way of being able to use or get something
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