American President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday formally notified the United Nations that the United States is withdrawing from the World Health Organization, AFP reported. The US is the largest contributor to the global agency. The country had contributed $400 million (approximately Rs 3,040 crore) to the organisation last year – nearly 15% of its entire budget.

The United States’ notice of withdrawal, which is effective July 6, 2021, has been submitted to the UN secretary general, who is the depository for the WHO, an unidentified administration spokesperson said. Under the law, the US must give WHO a year’s notice if it intends to withdraw, and meet all the financial obligations in the current year.

The decision comes at a time when the global coronavirus count is over 1.17 crore, while the toll has crossed 5.43 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Of these, 29.96 lakh cases are from United States, making it the worst-affected country in the world. Over 1.31 lakh people have died so far.

Trump had first announced that he planned to halt funding to the WHO in April, claiming that the organisation had deliberately covered up the early days of the pandemic to support China. On May 18, Trump had given WHO an ultimatum of 30 days to make “substantive improvements”. But, the global health body has repeatedly denied Trump’s claims that it promoted Chinese “disinformation” about the coronavirus.

Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden Democratic claimed he would immediately end the pull-out if he is elected president of the country. “Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health,” he tweeted. “On my first day as President, I will rejoin the WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”

Meanwhile, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to the news with a one-word tweet – “Together!” – as he linked to a discussion by US health experts on how leaving the global body could impede efforts to prevent future pandemics.

Health experts and other American lawmakers once again accused Trump of seeking to deflect criticism from his handling of the pandemic in the United States. “To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic and incoherent doesn’t do it justice,” said Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. “This won’t protect American lives or interests – it leaves Americans sick and America alone.”

Democratic representative Ami Bera said that the United States and World Health Organization had worked “hand in hand” to eradicate smallpox and nearly defeat polio. “Our cases are increasing,” Bera said of Covid-19. “If the WHO is to blame: why has the US been left behind while many countries from South Korea to New Zealand to Vietnam to Germany return to normal?”

The president of the United Nations Foundation, Elizabeth Cousens, said in a statement that the administration’s “move to formally withdraw from the WHO amid the greatest public health crisis that Americans and the world have faced in a century is shortsighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous.”

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