World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Image Credit: AFP

One of the characteristics of the coronavirus crisis is the obvious lack of global leadership. Apart from few countries that stepped in to help others, as the UAE did in supporting several countries over the past two months, there has been a striking absence of key players on the world stage. Many global powers shut down their borders, locked down their citizens and crawled inward.

The only international players during this crisis have been organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the IMF has extended urgent financial aid to badly affected countries, WHO has been active in coordinating national medical efforts and providing expert advice and awareness.

Worldwide, the pandemic has infected more than 2.2 million people and killed nearly 150,000. Life on the planet has halted, billions of people are staying home, and global economy has entered a deep recession.

It is imperative that WHO gets the necessary support and financing in order to continue the fight against the pandemic.

Health experts noted that the irrational decision [of Donald Trump] would jeopardise international efforts to combat COVID-19.

- Gulf News

Therefore, it was shocking when US President Donald Trump decided to cut the funding for the agency. On Wednesday, Trump instructed his administration to halt funding for the WHO. He claimed that the agency was suspected of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” He also accused the WHO of being too lenient on China, where the coronavirus outbreak first appeared.

America is WHO’s largest single donor, contributing between $400 million and $500 million annually to the agency in recent years. Trump’s shock decision was roundly condemned by nations around the world. Health experts noted that the irrational decision would jeopardise international efforts to combat COVID-19.

The European Union said the US president has “no reason” to halt WHO funding whilst the world is battling the ferocious pandemic. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell added that the WHO is now “needed more than ever” to combat the pandemic. “Only by joining forces can we overcome this crisis that knows no borders,” he said. Even supporters of Trump in the US criticised his decision. Many commentators feel that such a move will deal irreparable damage to America’s leading role in the world.

This is a critical time where the world looks for effective leadership that unites global efforts to beat the pandemic. It is disgraceful that major world powers have turned their back on humanity at a pivotal moment of our modern history.