Trump announced the US will pull out of the WHO. What does that actually mean?


Trump announced the US will pull out of the WHO. What does that actually mean?
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting on "opportunity zones" in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

President Donald Trump’s announcement Friday that the United States will terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization carries significant consequences in the US and around the world.

The step — which falls in line with Trump’s track record of extracting the US from various international bodies and treaties — leaves the US effectively isolated on the world stage during a global public health crisis.

Here’s what you need to know:

The US terminating its relationship with the WHO means the organization will lose a significant chunk of its funding.

Whether other nations will increase their contributions to plug the gap remains to be seen, but world leaders have signaled concern over a US exit for months as Trump ratcheted up his criticism of the organization.

In April, more than 1,000 organizations and individuals including charities, medical experts and health care companies from around the world signed a letter urging the Trump administration to reverse course and maintain funding.

And when Trump issued his letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in May, European leaders — including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — delivered messages of support for the WHO while speaking at the World Health Assembly.

“This pandemic has highlighted our vulnerability and made it clear that we need one another,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. “That’s why more than ever we must be united.”

How is it funded?

The WHO is funded by several sources: international organizations, private donors, member states, and its parent organization, the UN.

Each member state is required to pay dues to be a part of the organization; these are called “assessed contributions,” and are calculated relative to each country’s wealth and population. These dues only make up about a quarter of the WHO’s total funding.

The rest of the three quarters mostly come from “voluntary contributions,” meaning donations from member states or partners.

Of all the countries, the US is by far the largest donor; in the two-year funding cycle of 2018 to 2019, it gave $893 million to the WHO.

But most of this total was given voluntarily; the US paid $237 million in the required membership dues, and another $656 million in the form of donations.

US donations make up 14.67% of all voluntary contributions given globally. The next biggest donor is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an American private organization, which gave $531 million in the same period.

The amount that countries decide to contribute on top of their mandatory dues varies significantly by nation.

The UK, for example, give $335 million to the body voluntarily — around eight times its required payment of $43 million. Similarly, about 80% of Germany’s contribution is voluntary.

But only around 12% of China’s contributions were voluntary between 2018 and 2019, and less than a third of France’s payments were voluntary.

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