The WHO heard about Trump's decision to pull out of the organization 'from the media'

amiller@businessinsider.com (Anna Medaris Miller)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, file)

Associated Press

  • On Friday, President Trump said the US was "terminating" its relationship the World Health Organization. 
  • On Monday, the WHO director-general said he heard the news from the media. 
  • The director-general said it's his organization's "wish" for its collaboration with the US to continue. 
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On Friday, President Trump said the US was terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization due to what he sees as its China-centric response to the coronavirus.

That was news to the WHO. 

In response to a reporter's question Monday about when the organization was officially informed of Trump's decision, the WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "The announcement was last Friday, as we all heard from the media, and the only communication we had, or announcement, was actually at Friday's media announcement from the US." 

Earlier in the media briefing out of Geneva, Tedros said he hoped the WHO-US relationship could continue. 

"The world has long benefited from the strong collaborative engagement with the government and the people of the United States," Tedros said. "The US government and its people's contribution and generosity towards global health over many decades has been immense, and it has made a great difference in public health all around the world. It is WHO's wish for this collaboration to continue." 

He declined to answer a follow-up question about if or how it's possible for a member state to pull out of the WHO. 

Airline tycoon Richard Branson (L) and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore hold a globe in central London February 9, 2007. Branson announced on Friday a $25 million prize to the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the battle to beat global warming.

Reuters/Kieran Doherty

Trump said he's ending the US-WHO relationship because he believes the organization succumbed to pressure by China to "mislead the world" when the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan. During his announcement Friday, he argued that China "has total control over" the organization.

He also said that the US would be "redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public-health needs."

The WHO, however, also directs its funds to pressing health needs outside of the coronavirus; its most immediate other focuses include battling a new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, responding to the world's largest measles outbreak, and seeking solutions for the growing global threat of anti-microbial drug resistance, Tedros said Monday. 

The US is the organization's top funder, providing around $450 million a year, according to Trump. 

The alleged departure has been largely criticized by medical, global health, and public policy professionals and organizations. "We helped create @WHO. We are part of it. It is part of the world. Turning our back on WHO makes us and the world less safe," Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tweeted on Friday.

It's unclear if or how the president can withdrawal from the WHO; experts told NPR he would only have the authority had Congress decided to give it to him before his announcement. 

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