World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for international unity to defeat the coronavirus crisis while defending his agency’s handling of the pandemic as US President Donald Trump continued to accuse the WHO director general of siding with China.
Trump had earlier accused the WHO chief of "politicising" the COVID-19 outbreak, while repeatedly threatening to freeze the UN agency's funding.
WHO Calls for US, China to Unite
Ghebreyesus urged both China and the United States to join hands to counter the global health crisis instead of indulging in a blame game.
"The United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy," Ghebreyesus told a virtual press briefing in Geneva.
Ghebreyesus cautioned against politicisation of COVID-19 and said that such a move will only result in "many more body bags".
“If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you [politicise the virus]. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicising it,” Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
Trump Fires Fresh Salvo
Meanwhile, reacting to Trump’s threat of freezing WHO’s funding, Ghebreyesus said he expects the US funding to continue with traditional bipartisan support.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump fired a fresh salvo at the WHO and its chief. Trump's allegation comes a day after the US president threatened to put a "very powerful" hold on the US' funding to the WHO and criticised it for having "missed the call" in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump slammed the Geneva-based global health agency for its early guidance aimed at countering the international spread of the coronavirus
Reacting to Ghebreyesus’ statement, Trump agreed that the COVID-19 should not be politicised, but alleged that the WHO chief was doing exactly that and was siding with China.
"“When he (Ghebreyesus) says politicising, he’s politicising. That shouldn’t be. We spend USD 450 million last year, hundreds of millions in previous years. And they got to do better than that. They got to do better.”" - Donald Trump, US President
“When you talk about politics, I can't believe he's talking about politics look at the relationship they have with China," Trump said.
"China spends USD 42 million. We spend USD 450 million and everything seems to be China's way. That's not right. It's not fair to us. And honestly, it's not fair to the world," he said.
Get Your Priority Right: Trump to WHO
The United States is reevaluating its funding with respect to the WHO, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the White House.
"This is very consistent with what President Trump said since the beginning of his campaign. Organisations have to work," he added.
"“They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended and we need to make sure that only the WHO but every international organisation that we take taxpayer money and give it to them for the benefit of America we need to make sure it is delivering on these taxpayer dollars. The WHO is no different in that respect.”" - Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
Trump asserted that the WHO had to get its priority right.
"I think they have to get their priorities right and their priorities are that everybody has to be treated properly, every country. And it doesn't seem that way, he said.
On Tuesday, Trump accused the WHO having "called it wrong" and months too late, while taking money from the US but favouring China.
The W.H.O. 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?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
"“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?”" - Donald Trump on Twitter
Ghebreyesus, a former foreign minister of Ethiopia, rejected Trump's suggestion that the WHO was "China-centric", saying: "We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind."
Earlier, Dr Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to Tedros, also defended the UN agency's relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, it would be 100 days since WHO was first notified of the outbreak in China. The novel coronavirus, which first appeared in China in December, has gone on to kill more than 80,000 people, while more than 1.4 million people have tested positive globally.
(With inputs from PTI, AFP and Reuters)
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