K. Lloyd Billingsley – May 4, 2020
“It’s an obscure U.S. government bureau with many missions, including this vital one: hunting down viral diseases like COVID-19 that spill over from animals to the human world,” write James Rainey and Emily Baumgaertner of the Los Angeles Times. That would be the Global Health Bureau, part of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In late 2019, USAID found itself “squarely in the Trump administration’s budget-slashing sights,” but is now getting as much as $535 million. That is a sizeable boost from $100 million, which the Trump administration initially proposed trimming down to a $90 million.
The new funds drew applause from Jonna Mazet, executive director of the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who “headed USAID’s previous initiative to track dangerous viruses.” The Times authors do not chart how many dangerous viruses USAID succeeded in tracking down, or how many viral diseases like COVID-19 the Global Health Bureau managed to stop or control. It was also unclear “how much of the $535 million will be spent in the coming year” and how much of it would go to administration.
For 2020, Congress allocated $123 million for the World Health Organization, which the Trump administration sought to reduce to less than $58 million. That proposal set off alarms at Foreign Policy magazine, where Robbie Gramer and Column Lynch hailed the WHO as “leading the fight against the deadly coronavirus outbreak.”
As people in many nations have noted, the WHO did not prevent the coronavirus from travelling abroad from China and causing, at this writing, nearly two million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 125,196 deaths, including 7,905 in New York City alone, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Those still at risk, and out of work, might find that a strange brand of leadership.
The WHO is led by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as a Reuters report notes, “the first director-general in the WHO’s 72-year history not to be a medical doctor.” Dr. Tedros’ record as Ethiopia’s health minister is on the shaky side, and one of his first actions after becoming WHO boss in 2017 was to appoint Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador.”