Skip to content

One World: Together at Home concert raises millions for WHO after Trump defunding

The K-POP boyband Super M was among the many celebrities that participated in the One World: Together at Home music event, including Alicia Keys and the Rolling Stones.  
Photo by TwitterThe K-POP boyband Super M was among the many celebrities that participated in the One World: Together at Home music event, including Alicia Keys and the Rolling Stones.  

Last Saturday, Lady Gaga was one of many stars to kick off the 8-hour livestream One World: Together at Home concert. More than 20 million viewers tuned in, which was more than both the viewership of this year’s Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards, according to Nielsen ratings. The event raised approximately $128 million for the World Health Organization (WHO) and other coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response efforts.

Of the total amount of donations acquired, $55.1 million will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and $72.8 million will go to local and regional responders. The Solidarity Response Fund will support WHO, UNICEF, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and other organizations “to develop vaccines, tests and treatments.”

The event was broken up into a 6-hour preshow and a 2-hour main event hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. They were joined by stars including Paul McCartney, Keith Urban and Lizzo. Former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush were also present.

Both Alicia Keys and Beyoncé spoke on the virus’ catastrophic effects on Black communities. Beyoncé said, “Black Americans disproportionately belong to these essential parts of the workforce that do not have the luxury of working from home. And African American communities at large have been severely affected in this crisis … This virus is killing black people and in an alarmingly high rate here in America.”

The Rolling Stones members, despite being in four separate locations, still got together to perform their classic, "You Can't Always Get What You Want,” with member Charlie Watts air drumming along. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello performed a duet of “What A Wonderful World.”

Another notable performance was by Taylor Swift, who played her emotional song “Soon You'll Get Better” with piano accompaniment. Swift has purportedly said she would never sing this song live due to the emotional context of the song, her mother’s cancer diagnosis.

The concert ended with a stunning collaboration between operatic singer Andrea Bocelli, Céline Dion, John Legend, pianist Lang Lang and Lady Gaga singing “The Prayer.”

The event was sponsored by Global Citizen, “a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030.” Global Citizen is no stranger to holding concerts, with its annually sponsored festival held in the Great Lawn at Central Park, New York, every September.

Global Citizen was supported by the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, who came on the broadcast at one point to call for a global ceasefire and to focus on "rebuild(ing) a fairer world as united Global Citizens and United Nations."

For all its good intentions, this event still suffered some heavy backlash. This event was in defiance of President Donald J. Trump’s decision on April 14 to halt funding to the WHO amid complaints that the WHO is “China-centric” and has not done enough to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The WHO did fail to do its job, according to The Atlantic. Consider the examples of Taiwan and Hong Kong: when the WHO refused to come forward and admit that the COVID-19 is spread from human-to-human transmission, places like Taiwan and Hong Kong did their own research and came to these conclusions.

Taiwan and Hong Kong are two places that successfully contained the outbreak of COVID-19, but they did not follow any guidelines suggested by the WHO. The WHO still has not come out in support of wearing face masks nor did it initially recommend strict travel bans. But, Taiwan implemented a travel ban early on and increased its production of face masks. Today, it only has six reported deaths and has had schools open since the end of February.

In the 2017 election for the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won with the support of China, which moved aggressively to elect its candidate.

This might go to explain why the WHO ignored Taiwan’s research and instead tweeted, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China.” The WHO also waited until mid-March to declare COVID-19 a pandemic when it was already a large-scale problem in January.

In one of his daily briefings, Trump said, “Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death.” Similarly, Americans have criticized the WHO’s support of China revising its coronavirus case numbers, still skeptical at how low the amount is.

Nevertheless, the WHO is an international United Nations organization and receives most of its funding through specified voluntary contributions, of which the United States provides 15 percent. The other perspective to consider is: “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” said Bill Gates.