UN Secretary-General urges support for WHO after Trump’s threat

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged support for the World Health Organization (WHO) after US President Donald Trump threatened to freeze American funding.

“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19,” Xinhua news agency quoted Guterres as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

“This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” he said, in an apparent reference to Trump’s criticism of the WHO.

Trump on Tuesday criticized the WHO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and threatened to freeze US funding for it.

Again on Wednesday, Trump while addressing the White House daily briefing claimed that the WHO has gotten the pandemic “wrong”.

The WHO must “get its priorities right”, he said, adding that the US is going to do “a study, investigation” to determine if it will continue to fund the agency, the BBC reported.

“Everybody has to be treated properly,” Trump said.

“And it doesn’t seem that way”, as he repeated his assertion that China is unfairly favoured by the global body.

Also answering questions on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration was “re-evaluating our funding with respect to the World Health Organization”.

“Organisations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended,” Pompeo said.

In the statement on Wednesday, Guterres indicated that there will be a review of the WHO’s approach to the pandemic — but only after the virus has been contained.

“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future,” said Guterres in the statement.

“But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he added.

The UN chief further said that the ongoing pandemic was one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced. “It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences.”

The WHO, with thousands of its staff, is on the front-lines, supporting member states and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus, he added.

While replying to a question about Trump’s threat, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday said his message for the world at this moment was unity and solidarity, instead of politicizing the virus.

“I will suggest two things to the world,” he told a virtual press conference from Geneva. The first is national unity, and the second is global solidarity.

Tedros stressed that at the national level, leaders should work across party lines.

“My message to political parties: do not politicize this virus. If you care for your people, work across party lines and ideologies … Without unity, we assure you, even any country that may have a better system will be in trouble, and more crises,” Tedros noted.

“No need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourselves. This is not the one to use for politics, It’s like playing with fire,” Tedros added.

The development comes as the number of global coronavirus cases has increased to 1,484,811, with 88,538 deaths since the pandemic originated in china last December.

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