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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Trump punishes the World Health Organization for his own mistakes

World Health Organization
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus after a news briefing on the coronavirus in Geneva on March 11.
(Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images)

To the editor: In a fit of pique and misdirection, President Trump has halted all U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, which amounts to 17% of that body’s budget.

In announcing his decision, Trump had the temerity to state, “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground ... the outbreak could have been contained at its source, with very little death.” Yet in July 2019, this same administration cut the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff in Beijing by more than two-thirds.

Furthermore, the L.A. Times recently reported that the Trump administration last fall closed the U.S. Agency for International Development’s program for hunting new viruses. At the time, the New York Times noted that “ending the program, experts fear, will leave the world more vulnerable to lethal pathogens ... that emerge from unexpected places, such as bat-filled trees.”

Furthermore, the National Science Foundation had to close all of its overseas offices in 2018, throttling the scientific progress that has been a hallmark of this nation since its founding. Trump’s “America first” policy has squandered our nation’s claim to global leadership, endangering us all.

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John Ashbaugh, San Luis Obispo

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To the editor: At the end of the article you quote Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) criticism of the president’s handling of the pandemic. However, that has no relevance to the point of the article: whether the WHO handled its responsibilities competently in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The WHO was required to be vigilant in dealing with the original problem in China; if it did not do that, Trump’s own irresponsibility does not excuse that of the WHO.

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According to an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, China pushed very hard to have Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus become the WHO’s director general. All fine, except for the fact that when Adhanom was the health and then foreign minister of Ethiopia, China loaned the country nearly $1 billion for infrastructure improvements, including for hospitals.

The Journal further reported that despite evidence of problems in China in December, the WHO effectively sat on its hands.

If the WHO will not do the job it is funded to do, what else could the United States do to exert pressure other than suspending funding?

Joel Drum, Van Nuys

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To the editor: What a clever move on the part of our president — to all but bankrupt the United Nations international health organization in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. But of course Trump he needed someone else to blame, didn’t he?

On Jan. 14, the WHO said there was no clear evidence of a human-to-human transmission of the virus. But by the end of that month, the WHO acknowledged a worldwide health crisis.

Trump, in contrast, did not begin to take the coronavirus seriously — well, sort of seriously — until late February, and even then he insisted his administration had everything under control.

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Erica Hahn, Monrovia

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To the editor: Who in his right mind would suggest cutting the WHO’s funding during a pandemic?

That would be Trump, who believes he is the font of all knowledge and cannot comprehend the need of the entire world to work together to solve this health crisis.

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Carol Karas, Camarillo


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