Less than a month after President Trump vowed to stop funding the World Health Organization, Germany and France say they will contribute financial backing to the agency in its fight against the coronavirus.
Germany promised to give 500 million euros (over $560 million) in funding and equipment to the WHO this year, as the country assumes the presidency of the European Union.
“We need a strong, efficient, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn in a news conference in Geneva. “Isolated national answers to international problems are doomed to fail.”
The pledges follow President Trump’s announcement last month that the U.S. was cutting ties with what he labeled the “China-centric” WHO, but his administration has not yet formally notified the United Nations agency. During the last WHO budget cycle at the end of 2019, the U.S. provided over 15% of the WHO’s funding, with a total contribution of $893 million. Trump has criticized the agency as being too slow in tackling the pandemic and too susceptible to Chinese influence.
“We are getting today all the support we need, politically and financially. Both Germany and France are long-standing friends of WHO and global health,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a news conference.
France said it would give 90 million euros (about $100 million) to a WHO research center in Lyon as well as an additional contribution of 50 million euros ($56 million).
The WHO is dependent on membership fees and voluntary extra contributions from its 194 member states, along with donations from international organizations and private donors. According to the WHO, Germany’s total contribution during the last budget cycle was over $292 million.
Germany’s new WHO support package must first be approved by parliament, Health Minister Spahn said, adding that the government is optimistic it will be passed by the beginning of July.
Spahn also pressed for improvements in the WHO, saying Germany’s increased spending “comes with the clear expectation that remaining challenges are adequately addressed and needed reforms are pushed forward.”
A senior European health official told Reuters last week that European governments are working with the U.S. on plans to overhaul the WHO, signaling that Europe shares at least some of the concerns that led Washington to announce it would cut its funding of the agency.