United Nations secretary general António Guterres came out strongly in support of the World Health Organization (WHO) after US president Donald Trump launched a harsh attack on it. In a statement released on April 8, Wednesday, Guterres said that the WHO was “absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.” He added, “Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”
The same day, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also appealed to states to not politicize the COVID-19 emergency and maintain national and international unity. “Please quarantine politicizing COVID,” Ghebreyesus said. “We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave,” he added.
The statement was made by Ghebreyesus while addressing a press meet in Geneva, in an apparent response to US president Donald Trump calling the WHO “very China-centric”.
“Please, unity at national level, no using COVID or political points,” he said, adding “Second, honest solidarity at the global level. And honest leadership from the US and China.” He asked the countries to desist from attempts to score points against each other.
Trump had threatened to withdraw financial support to the WHO in a press conference on April 7. In a tweet later, he toned down the threat but repeated the allegations, saying that “the WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
The US contributed close to 15% of WHO’s budget for the 2018-2019 financial cycle and nearly 22% of the assessed voluntary contributions.
Ghebreyesus warned countries to not let their differences be exploited by the virus at a time when global infections have surpassed 1.4 million. The number of deaths was almost 92,000 as of April 9.
The novel coronavirus was discovered by Chinese authorities on January 8. WHO called it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, and declared it a global pandemic on March 11. The WHO had released travel advisories and other guidelines as early as January 10.