Is United States justified in its criticism of UN agency?
What does the WHO do?
Set up in 1948, it is the part of the United Nations responsible for global public health, co-ordinating vaccination campaigns, health emergencies and supporting countries with primary healthcare.
It is funded by fees and voluntary contributions from its 194 member states, with the US being the largest single contributor.
Did the WHO fail to challenge China?
President Trump has accused the WHO of failing to challenge China’s early assertion there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.
China first informed the WHO of “a pneumonia of an unknown cause, on 31 December”.
On January 5, the organisation said the information it had from China at that time showed there was “no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission”.
And on January 14, it tweeted preliminary Chinese investigations had found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus.
The same day, however, the Wuhan Health Commission said the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission could not be excluded, although the risk of sustained transmission was low.
Around the same time, WHO raised the possibility of some human-to-human transmission, referring to what was known about other coronaviruses such as Sars .
And on 22 January, the WHO, following a brief field visit, made a clearer statement human-to-human transmission was happening in Wuhan. Then at the end of January, the WHO praised China for its efforts to contain the virus, including its “commitment to transparency”.
But Trump himself praised the Chinese, in a tweet, on January 24.
Did WHO misadvise on travel bans?
Trump said the WHO had misadvised “there was no need for travel bans” and “fought” with the US over banning travel from China and other countries.
The WHO has never directly criticised the US approach and it is up to national governments to implement border or travel restrictions.
But it did publish initial advice, on January 10, recommending no international restrictions and repeated this the same day it declared a public health emergency, in late January.
The WHO has said: “Restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations.”
It believes closing borders could lead to a rise in people trying to travel illegally and so possibly spread rather than stop infection.
But this advice was eventually ignored by most countries, including the US, where Trump stopped all foreign nationals who had been in China in the 14 days prior from entering the US from February 2.
But a study published in February by the Journal of Emergency Management found travel bans had been effective in decreasing the spread of previous viruses, such as Ebola and Sars, in the short term only.