U.S to divert outstanding 2020 WHO dues – Official

By Harrison Arubu

New York – The U.S. Government says it will not pay its outstanding 2020 membership due of $62 million (N23.6 billion) to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Rather, the money will be diverted to other contributions to the United Nations, according to a senior official of the Department of State, Ms Nerissa Cook.

Cook, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organisation Affairs, disclosed this during a virtual news briefing on Wednesday evening.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the briefing centred on the U.S. government’s next steps with regard to its withdrawal from WHO.

The official said the U.S. had already paid about $52 million (N19.8 billion) to WHO as of the time President Donald Trump announced suspension of funding to the organisation in April.

She said: “The U.S. is assessed at 22 per cent of the WHO regular budget, totaling more than 100 million dollars (N38 billion) a year.

“For fiscal year 2020, the U.S.’ assessment was just over 120 million dollars (N45.7 billion) of which $58 million dollars had already been contributed at the time of the president’s April decision to suspend additional funding.

“Today, we are announcing the remaining portion of the 2020 assessment, slightly more than $62 million dollars will be reprogrammed to the UN to pay other assessments.’’

In July, the UN said the country must fulfill the conditions for withdrawal from WHO, including full financial obligations.

However, Cook said before the withdrawal on July 6, 2021, the U.S. government would continue to participate in particular meetings of WHO.

She said her country would take part where it believed that America’s interests needed to be represented.

Two other officials at the briefing announced one-time contributions by the U.S. to specific voluntary programmes it implements in partnership with WHO.

These programmes include polio eradication projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan, humanitarian relief in Libya and Syria and efforts to combat influenza.

Mr Garrett Grigsby, a director in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said 40 million dollars (N15 billion) would be provided in the programme areas of immunisation and influenza.

Grigsby said those activities were critical to the health and security of Americans, but for which U.S. had no immediate alternative partners.

Speaking in similar vein, Dr Alma Golden of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced a one-time disbursement of $68 million dollars (N25.9 billion) to WHO.

Golden explained that the funding would support humanitarian health assistance in Libya and Syria as well as efforts to eradicate polio in priority countries.

NAN reports that the announcements came a day after the Trump administration said it would not participate in COVAX, a WHO-run project to develop and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

No fewer than 150 countries, including Nigeria, are participating in COVAX, which stands for Vaccines Global Access Facility.

It would be recalled that in May, Trump announced his decision to pull out the U.S. from WHO and redirect its contributions and other global health resources to other partners.

The president accused the global health agency of being a puppet to China, an accusation it denied.

Trump said he took the decision after WHO spurned his demand for crucial reforms, demonstrating its independence from the China.

On July 6, the U.S. government through the Secretary of State Michael Pompeo formally notified the UN of its decision to withdraw with effect from July 6, 2021.


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