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U.S. finds alternative partners to WHO, except for polio - U.S. official

Humeyra Pamuk

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - The United States has found alternative partners for global health projects as it withdraws from the World Health Organization (WHO) except for polio eradication, an area where U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had credited the body for its good work.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month announced that the United States was ending its relationship with the WHO over the body’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the U.N. agency of becoming a puppet of China.

"There was a series of countries where there was no alternative for implementation. Since then State (Department) and USAID has found alternative implementers in most of those countries," Jim Richardson, director of the Office of Foreign Assistance at the State Department told reporters in a briefing.

While he did not name the alternative partners, he said the U.S. had "an amazing cadre of faith-based NGOs and contractors and other multilateral organizations" to replace WHO's work, with an exception in a key area.

"We still have a hard time finding implementing partners for polio for instance. We're still working through an inter-agency to come to resolution on that issue and see how we want to proceed as the government in those unique cases, " he said.

Pompeo in an interview last month said the WHO had done "good work in some places on polio and the like."

The United States is the biggest overall donor to the WHO, contributing over $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget. The crippling disease of polio remains an endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the United States pressed ahead with its withdrawal from the WHO, and was in the process of notifying the body, Richardson said, but added that the pullout would not happen overnight and would take a bit of time.

"We are...working hard to give the proper notice," he said. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk Editing by Marguerita Choy)