The World Health Organization was founded in 1948, when the memory of global war was fresh and the importance of global cooperation so evident that it needed no justification.

The group boasts an impressive roster of achievements, including the eradication of of small pox, the near eradication of polio and massive expansion of basic health care services in low-income countries.

The world is fighting the most serious pandemic in a century, and the United States is in the process of withdrawing from the only international organization equipped to lead that effort.

President Trump has accused the World Health Organization, which is made up of 194 member countries [including the United States], of failing to sound the alarm about the coronavirus quickly enough, of helping the Chinese government cover up the severity of the virus's threat, and of being too deferential to China in general.

He froze federal funding for the organization in April. In May, he gave the W.H.O.'s leaders 30 days to makeup unspecified improvements, and then, before that time was up, and as the American death toll from Covid 19 topped 100,000 - he decided to withdraw from the group altogether.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump can withdraw from the organization without congressional approval, but a senior administration official recently told Politico that the decision was final.

There are several problems with the president's critiques. First, his charge that W.H.O. officials abetted a cover-up is false.

The organization first warned of a mysterious outbreak in China on Jan 4, following up with a larger report the next day. In the following weeks, it sent a delegation from the W.H.O Asia office to Wuhan and warned that the virus might be spreading from human to human.

By the end of January, officials had declared a global emergency, the strongest warning W.H.O. can issue.

Second, the W.H.O.'s deference to China is no different than its deference to the United States - or any other member country.

The W.H.O. is a convening body and a technical resource, not a global regulator or enforcer,. Its members, the United States chief among them, designed the organization that way.

But the bigger problem is this : President Trump's withdrawal from the organization will leave the United States and the rest of the world in a much worse position to tackle health threats like this coronavirus.

W.H.O' s track record of responding to emergencies is uneven, to be sure. The agency's slow-footed and uncoordinated response to the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014 was largely to blame for that outbreak's severity [more than 11,000 people died in the space of two years].

But the organization has worked to correct its course in recent years, under the stewardship of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The W.H.O. does have problems that ought to be addressed. The scope of its mission has long since outgrown its budget, which is increasingly made up of donations from member countries that can only be used for specific programs.

And it is still, for all it has achieved in the past 70 years, a creaking bureaucracy.

But withdrawing from the W.H.O. in the middle of global pandemic is a terrible solution to these problems.

Instead, the United States and other member nations - like Brazil, which also recently threatened to leave the organization - should try seeing the W.H.O. - should try seeing the W.H.O. for what is : a reflection of the countries that created it and that wrote its bylaws.

If they don't like what they see, they should work to remove that reflection.

The organization is still the world's best hope for fighting pandemics.

The World Students Society thanks the Editorial writers at The New York Times.


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