On July 6, 2021, the USA will formally exit the world’s leading authority on public health, the World Health Organisation. This comes as a big blow as the organisation depends heavily on USA funding to operate; in fact, it is the single biggest donation to the WHO (2018-2019). A lack of resources as the body tries to guide the world out of the deadliest and widest-spread pandemic in recent history could prove to be devastating.
The USA is not the first country to leave the WHO. In fact, the country which seems to have pushed the USA to depart, China, has had its earlier representatives, the Republic of China (now the de-facto authority on Taiwan) ousted from the body in favour of the new regime, albeit involuntarily. The USA’s departure could put WHO projects like the Solidarity Trial, an international cooperative effort to treat COVID-19, in grave jeopardy.
Even apart from COVID-19, the WHO performs various functions and makes moves towards the eradication of many diseases in the regions still ravaged by them, such as Polio and TB. Technically, Polio has been 100% eradicated in the USA, but if it is left unchecked and uncontrolled in underdeveloped countries, it could see a resurgence in the states via transmission.
For the United States, this exit would also mean cutting off access to the WHO’s global system for sharing data and vaccine research during a pandemic, making the world more vulnerable to future pandemics. That, combined with the fact that a large number of WHO projects are US-centred (them being one of the biggest sources of funding every year), one questions what the USA tangibly stands to gain from this decision apart from making their stand known. The exit may never even come to fruition, as it cannot take place before July next year, and with a US Presidential Election coming up later this year. A change in regimes may also result in a change of heart, but only time will tell.