John Oliver reminds us why the World Health Organization is so damn important

John Oliver in a suit speaking with the logo of the World Health Organization next to him

There couldn't be a worse time for the United States to leave a global organization charged, in part, with managing a collective response to pandemics. So of course that is what the Trump administration is doing with its plan to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) by next summer. Over the weekend, late night host John Oliver explained just how bad of an idea this is — particularly at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

First, Oliver makes plain the significance of the WHO. It was the organization, after all, that essentially eradicated smallpox in 1979. The segment points to how in order to battle the disease in India, the WHO repeatedly went to every single house in the country over the course of 20 months. Meanwhile, the United States remains dramatically behind when it comes to wide scale testing for the coronavirus — in 2020.

The Trump administration announced this summer that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the WHO, citing the cost as well as unfounded ties to China. This despite the fact that the U.S. owes the organization millions in unpaid membership dues and, as Oliver points out in the segment, is the only member with special privileges.

The president vaguely gestured at where those funds would go once we've left the organization. There appears to be a belief, among those in the corners of government less concerned with reality, that the United States could simply replace the WHO if it needed to. Oliver points out how viruses that can originate anywhere in the world necessitate global cooperation, something Trump has balked at, almost as a reflex, since his election.

It places the current election in yet another urgent context. America's membership in the WHO is set to end in July of next year so long as Trump remains in office. As Oliver points out, it makes the organization a legitimate — and gravely important — election issue.