Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2020) – United Nations Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens released the following statement in response to the U.S. Administration’s announcement of its intention to withhold funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) pending a review of its actions in response to COVID-19:

“As the United States and the world confront an unprecedented global health crisis, it has never been more urgent to ensure that the World Health Organization (WHO), the primary institution with the technical capacity and mandate to support all countries at this critical time, has the resources it needs for urgent, frontline response. WHO’s essential work on COVID-19 is in American interests and the world’s interests and needs our fullest support.

We urge the Administration to resume funding to WHO.

WHO serves as the global coordinator of efforts to develop vaccines, tests and treatments, it trains millions of health workers based on the latest evidence and best practice, and it has already supplied millions of vital supplies from lab reagents to masks, gloves and protective gear to health care workers in dozens of countries around the world. WHO frontline workers put their lives on the line to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in countries around the world at great risk to themselves and their families. They are playing an irreplaceable role.

The United States led the creation of the World Health Organization for a reason. The U.S. and the American people have long understood the benefits at home and abroad of essential investments in global public health. At this critical time, WHO also enjoys the support of the American public. A recent Better World Campaign/Morning Consult poll found that when it comes to managing the response to international health crises like COVID-19, three quarters of Americans (77%) trust the World Health Organization, above all other entities polled.

Withholding funding would harm the global response against COVID-19, especially in developing countries whose people are more vulnerable because health systems are weaker. Beyond its urgent work on COVID-19, WHO is also central to the fight against other major health threats that matter to Americans. The bulk of U.S. funds to the WHO help save lives and give hope to populations around the world facing diseases like polio, measles, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, including in humanitarian hotspots like Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. People around the world already facing severe health challenges will face a cruel double blow if WHO is unable to provide the vital services and treatments on which they depend.

WHO is not perfect – no institution is, especially when facing a crisis of a magnitude not seen in a century. There will be a time and place to determine what went right and wrong in the COVID-19 response, and WHO itself has welcomed that accountability.

But the middle of a global pandemic is not the time. We urge the United States to resume funding for WHO and its essential work when we all know that time is of the essence in stopping the cruel march of this deadly disease.”

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