As Trump administration retreats, Germany poised to replace US as main supporter of world health initiatives

angela merkel germany european union
Credit: Michael Kappeler/AFP

In the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s confirmation that the U.S. will exit the World Health Organization — leaving a gaping financial and political hole in global health — Germany is trying to step up to the plate.

Weeks after the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the WHO, German Health Minister Jens Spahn took to the stage in Geneva, flanked by French Health Minister Olivier Véran, and announced a €200 million increase in German funding. The cash injection would put Germany’s contributions at around €500 million — an amount exceeded in the last two years by only the U.S.

Although the U.S. is an important partner to the WHO, it can be replaced, said David Heymann, an epidemiologist who headed the WHO’s response to SARS in 2003.

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It’s not just cash that Germany is funneling into global health. It’s also determined to be the voice of reason in shaking up the WHO post pandemic. A case in point: While Germany and France abandoned talks over an American proposal for reforms at the WHO, they penned their own plan to strengthen the organization.

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“Strengthening … also means that you look at the weak parts of the organization, how this can be improved,” said Detlev Ganten, founding president of the World Health Summit and former CEO of Berlin’s Charité university hospital.

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