White House steers withheld WHO funds to other organizations

The White House budget office has told federal agencies to redirect World Health Organization funds to groups that do similar work, indicating a 60-day suspension of WHO funding ordered by President Trump will be permanent.

The funds will flow instead to outfits such as the Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse after Trump said Tuesday the WHO needed reform after failing to vet coronavirus data from China, contributing to a pandemic that infected more than 650,000 US residents.

The US provided roughly 10 percent of the WHO’s $4.8 billion annual budget. Most US contributions were “voluntary.” Annual US dues were just $58 million, with the next installment not expected until September.

Trump administration officials have ceased “voluntary” contributions from agencies including USAID, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services — totaling about $300 million-$400 million a year.

An administration official told The Post that efforts were underway to redirect “every single pot of money” from the WHO to other organizations. Large international relief organizations already are in many cases doing similar work, they said.

The administration official said that the White House Office of Management and Budget would send any necessary notifications to Congress when there are decisions to redirect funds, though in some cases that may be unnecessary.

Aside from Trump’s charge that WHO is “China-centric” and in need of “meaningful reforms,” Trump administration officials grumble about WHO’s indulgent travel budget and liberal policy priorities, pointing to WHO work on climate change and abortion.

The annual WHO travel budget is about $200 million, dwarfing many of its health programs. In 2016, the WHO spent $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, $61 million on malaria and $59 million on tuberculosis, the Associated Press reported.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday vowed to challenge what she called Trump’s “illegal” suspension of WHO funds but did not specify how. The White House argues there’s no legal obligation to fund the WHO.

Although Trump initially said the funds would be “suspended,” a senior administration official likened the WHO to a shoddy construction company.

“If you pay a contractor to build you a house and the roof falls in, you don’t keep paying them, you find a new contractor,” the official told the Daily Caller. “WHO clearly failed to do its job, and continues to make serious mistakes that puts our nation’s safety and security at risk, including allowing the reopening of wet markets. It shouldn’t be controversial for the U.S. to want to partner with international organizations that will actually protect international health.”

Tensions over WHO funding were brewing for weeks.

Trump administration officials told The Post last month they were appalled that China chipped in just $20 million, or 3 percent, to a WHO drive to raise $675 million in dedicated coronavirus funds.

“China, who started the pandemic, ponied up a paltry $20 million,” a senior Trump administration official told The Post. “They refuse to pay even 3 percent into the world fund to respond to the virus that their own actions caused to spread rapidly outside of their country. That’s shocking and a disgrace.”

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