As the United States withdraws from membership in the World Health Organization, the Trump administration will redirect $62 million still owed for this year’s dues to other health-related causes also under United Nations auspices, State Department officials announced on Wednesday.
Most of the redirected money will go to children’s immunization and influenza surveillance, officials said. But the United States Agency for International Development will continue with plans to give $68 million to the W.H.O. to support its work in Libya and Syria, and on polio eradication in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
American government employees working as technical advisers to the W.H.O. will be withdrawn, the officials said.
The W.H.O. declined to comment, other than to refer reporters to statements made when the administration announced its intent to withdraw. At the time, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the W.H.O., said the agency “regretted” Mr. Trump’s decision. “The United States of America has been a longstanding and generous friend to the W.H.O., and we hope it will continue to be so,” he said.
On July 7, the Trump administration formally notified António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, that the United States would withdraw from the W.H.O. on July 6, 2021.
U.N. members are obliged to give a year’s notice of withdrawal and to pay all dues owed. The United States, which has historically been the agency’s largest supporter, was assessed 22 percent of the agency’s budget, or about $120 million; it had already paid $58 million, officials said, when the notice of withdrawal was delivered.
Although the United States is seeking “alternative partners” to support, the W.H.O. has irreplaceable connections and assets, officials said. Some of its missions are crucial to the health of Americans, or to national economic or foreign policy interests.
For example, the agency coordinates the collection of influenza virus samples from around the world that determine what strains go into annual flu shots.
In Libya, the W.H.O. controls a pharmaceutical distribution network, and in Syria, agency officials can get aid convoys across national borders and through areas divided by fighting.
The United States will still participate in W.H.O. meetings “on a limited basis,” said Dr. Alma C. Golden, USAID’s assistant administrator for global health. They will include the agency’s governing bodies and technical committees considering issues that affect American citizens, economic interests or the federal government’s investments in global health.
The United States might reconsider its withdrawal plans if the W.H.O. makes reforms demanded by the Trump administration, said Nerissa J. Cook, a deputy assistant secretary of the State Department bureau that deals with international organizations. The demands included one that the W.H.O. distance itself from China’s ruling Communist Party.
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 1, 2020
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
- Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
Dr. Tedros has long said that the W.H.O. is not “China-centric” and that, if anything, it has long pursued American interests because of the large donations it gets from the federal government, as well as private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Michael R. Bloomberg’s philanthropies.
Earlier this year, as the coronavirus death toll mounted in this country, President Trump began threatening to quit the W.H.O. He accused China of hiding the true scope of its epidemic from the world in its earliest days, and said the W.H.O. was complicit for not demanding more information. He also condemned the W.H.O. for praising China’s response to the virus.
In fact, the W.H.O. has no power to coerce any member state to give it information. Starting in January, the W.H.O. issued repeated warnings about the virus. Also, in January Mr. Trump himself strongly praised China’s response to the virus.
The United States played a central role in creating the W.H.O. in 1948, and has since been its largest donor. The biennial budget for the W.H.O. is about $6 billion.
In 2019, the United States contributed about $553 million. That amount, far larger than the obligatory dues assessment, included voluntary donations to causes that the American government supports.