Transcript (Edited for length)
AMY GOODMAN: As the confirmed cases of coronavirus surpass 2 million around the world, President Donald Trump says he will cut U.S. support for the World Health Organization. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, called it a “crime against humanity.” Oxfam America said the cuts slash “any hopes for the responsible international cooperation and solidarity that is critical to save lives and restore the global economy.” This comes as a new Oxfam report estimates the pandemic’s economic fallout could push more than half a billion more people into poverty.
As the death rate from the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate, with more than 2 million confirmed infections worldwide and at least 127,000 deaths, President Trump said Tuesday he would cut off U.S. support for the World Health Organization. Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump sought to shift blame for his administration’s disastrous handling of the pandemic onto the U.N. public health agency, accusing the WHO of helping China to cover up the spread of the coronavirus when it emerged late last year.
Trump’s decision sparked international outrage and condemnation. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, tweeted, “President Trump’s decision to defund WHO is simply this — a crime against humanity. Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.”
The American Medical Association’s president, Patrice Harris, called on Trump to reconsider the cut, saying, quote, “Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data,” she said. The global anti-poverty organization Oxfam America said the cuts slash, quote, “any hopes for the responsible international cooperation and solidarity that is critical to save lives and restore the global economy.”
This comes as a new Oxfam report estimates the pandemic’s economic fallout could push more than half a billion more people into poverty. For nearly 3 billion people already living in poverty and facing malnutrition, the virus could be deadly. In all, it estimates half of the world’s 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty in the virus’s aftermath. The report is called “Dignity Not Destitution: An ‘Economic Rescue Plan For All’ to tackle the Coronavirus crisis and rebuild a more equal world.”
For more, we’re joined by Oxfam America’s vice president, Paul O’Brien.
Let’s begin with President Trump. In the midst of this pandemic, where the U.S. is the epicenter of the world’s pandemic — more deaths than any other country in the world — President Trump announces he’s ending support for the World Health Organization. Paul O’Brien, your response?
PAUL O’BRIEN: It was pretty shocking to hear that last night. We had predicted last week that the number of deaths from coronavirus could be as high as 40 million over the coming period. So, we’re already in crisis, but it could get significantly worse.
President Trump has his treasury secretary talking to other G20 finance ministers today, and what that leader needs to be able to show is America’s role in leading multilateral cooperation. And at the same time, he’s announcing that he’s going to cut the legs off the World Health Organization, thereby undermining his own attempt to show global leadership. It was profoundly self-destructive for U.S. leadership. It’s profoundly harmful for our world.
And it seems to be nothing other than short-term blame shifting and scapegoating in order to distract people from the failures of this administration to properly lead on the issue. But its consequences could be devastating for people.
AMY GOODMAN: Paul O’Brien, there are many critics of the World Health Organization. But across the board now, with President Trump announcing that he is cutting the funding for this organization — the U.S., the largest funder of the World Health Organization — explain what this organization does and why it is so critical.
PAUL O’BRIEN: The U.S. is now facing more deaths per day than has been seen. We are facing our own health crisis here. We’re also facing our own economic crisis here at the same time. You’ve got 17 million new unemployed in the United States. And even before the crisis started, you had 40% of Americans didn’t have $400 to their name for an emergency. And then the crisis hits. So, you’ve got a health crisis and an economic crisis here. You’ve got that, in many ways, even worse in many of the communities that Oxfam works in. We work in 90 countries around the world, including the United States. But you’ve got this health and economic crisis coming at the same time.
You’ve got a World Health Organization, whose job it is to convene leaders to make sure that the response is coordinated and evidence-based, is based on science, and that there is a truly global response to a global pandemic. So, apart from the financing of the organization, the leadership and the moral authority of the organization to be able to drive global consensus to respond to this health and economic crisis is absolutely critical. And for President Trump, the world’s most powerful politician, to stand on a stage yesterday, for whatever reason he had, and to attack them, in order to blame shift, undermines their ability to get that global consensus at a critical time. So, this act, in itself, could have profound repercussions for many of the people that we see as particularly vulnerable in the United States and around the world.
Particularly when you look at the combination of bad health systems or weak health systems and economic vulnerability, three areas are at greatest risk: sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. You’ve got, in our — our report found that we think 500 million more people could go into poverty as a consequence of this, essentially wiping out all the progress that’s been made over the last 30 years, in some contexts, and, on an average, the last 10 years of progress.