As the U.S. government’s inaction during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic comes under increasing scrutiny, President Trump attempted to shift blame to the World Health Organization during a press conference yesterday. With 400,000 confirmed cases and close to 13,000 deaths in the U.S. as of Wednesday, April 08 at 3 am EST, he has continued to deny all responsibility for the scale of the crisis, having already blamed the Obama administration, China and the media. Despite the WHO warning about the coronavirus as early as January, Trump accused the organization of “having called it wrong” and being “China-centric”.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on January 30 while Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, warned in a memo dated January 29 that the emerging virus could be a risk for millions of Americans and cost trillions of dollars. Yesterday, the president nevertheless said that the WHO “called it wrong. They missed the call. They could have called it months earlier”. Referring to U.S. financial contributions to the WHO, Trump then said that “we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO”. He continued, adding that “we’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see”.
When subsequently asked if withholding money from the WHO in the middle of a pandemic was the right decision, Trump then seemed to backtrack, saying “no maybe not” before adding “I’m not saying I’m going to do it but we’re going to look at it.” So given yesterday’s events, how much do countries actually contribute do the WHO? There are two kinds of payments – assessed contributions and voluntary supplementary assessed contributions. The first one is what countries have to pay to be a member of the organization and the total amount is calculated relative to wealth and population. The second is obviously voluntary and a higher financial contribution members are encouraged to make.
In its most recent budget proposal in February, the Trump administration requested a reduction in U.S. financial contributions to the WHO from $122.6m to an assessed contribution of $57.9m. Despite the slashed budget, that figure still makes the U.S. the WHO’s top financial contributor by far. China pays in the second highest sum, $28.6m, followed by Japan’s $20.5m. The total sum of assessed contributions invoiced by the WHO on January 01 and due for payment this year stood at $246.8 million, of which $79 million had been paid by members as of March 31.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)
Assessed contributions to the World Health Organization for 2020 (as of March 31, 2020)