By Chris Bishop
The holding back by President Donald Trump of US taxpayers’ money for the World Health Organisation will have a “significant impact” on its work in Africa at a time when the continent battles the COVID-19 outbreak with thin resources.
President Trump held back the money, which makes up about 15% of WHO funds, in protest against what he claimed was poor advice from the organisation in the early days of what is now a world pandemic.
Matshidiso Moeti, the regional director for Africa for WHO, said in a web briefing that the holding back of US taxpayers’ money would hurt a number of health projects in Africa including the highly successful campaign against polio.
“The impact will be quite significant,” says Moeti.
Billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, who already fill 10 per cent of WHO’s coffers, says the Trump decision makes no sense and has upped their contribution by $150 million to help the continent fight COVID-19.
The South African government has also protested the President Trump decision and called on him to reconsider.
“It is alarming that this very regrettable decision is announced as this deadly virus strikes Africa and the poorest and most vulnerable states,” the South African government said in a statement on April 16.
Moeti said WHO was going to spent $300 million in the next six months fighting COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa and Algeria; a land mass with 47 countries and nearly a billion people. She said she hoped any shortfall in the money would be covered by the new cash injections like the one promised by Bill and Melinda Gates.
Money is likely to be a growing issue in Africa when its paralysed economies emerge from a lockdown that is going to cost millions their livelihood. On the economic, front, the WHO web briefing heard that a third of African workers were likely to lose their jobs and that the World Bank was predicting the first continental recession for 25 years. The African Union has asked the donors for a debt standstill.