Go to Press Releases library
Press Releases

WRC Responds to White House Move to Terminate U.S./WHO Relationship

NEW YORK, NY – Moving forward with plans to terminate the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. government has formally submitted its withdrawal notification to the U.N. Secretary-General. The WHO, a UN agency that coordinates global health policy and strategy, has been leading COVID-19 response efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

A June 16, 2020 letter from nearly 100 organizations—including the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC)—to both U.S. Senate and House leadership stated that “WHO is uniquely positioned to address the COVID-19 pandemic from technical, communications, and organizational capacities.”

The WHO is also responsible for leading global health efforts, including improving access to essential medicines and health products. U.S. termination of the WHO relationship would impact global health programming and affect much-needed support from the U.S. to ensure the health of people affected by crises.

In response to the withdrawal notification, Joan Timoney, WRC’s vice president of external affairs, issued the following statement:

“Termination of the U.S. relationship with the WHO is unconscionable. At the time of a global pandemic, health response demands more coordination—not less. This action could have a devastating impact on the lives of people around the world, including displaced women and girls. Additionally, cutting funding to lifesaving health programming will likely have deadly consequences.

“The WHO leads health response coordination for internally displaced persons (through an organizing body known as the Global Health Custer) and works in partnership with humanitarian organizations—many of which are U.S. based and are service providers. It provides critical coordination, technical, and operational support at regional, national, and global levels. The WHO is also a member of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises, providing critical sexual and reproductive health (SRH) support to policy, guidance, and programming for crisis-affected populations.

“WRC hosts the IAWG Secretariat and is working closely with partner organizations to identify how COVID-19 is affecting the lives of displaced women and girls. We are hearing firsthand about serious barriers to health services as a result of the pandemic. Cutting ties with the WHO—especially right now—isn’t just bad policy, it’s dangerous for all of us.”

Withdrawal from the WHO requires one year’s notice and would not become final until July of 2021, leaving the possibility open for Congressional action.