WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged unity, as the UN’s health agency comes under continued fire from President Donald Trump.
Speaking on April 8, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the WHO’s work and called for an end to the politicization of Covid-19.
The Ethiopian also said that he had received deaths threats and has been subjected to racist abuse.
President Trump said he would consider ending US funding for the World Health Organization.
The US president accused the WHO of being “very China-centric” and said they “really blew” their pandemic response.
Dr. Tedros has now dismissed the comments, insisting: “We are close to every nation, we are color-blind.”
After first attacking the WHO the previous day, President Trump renewed his criticism at his news briefing on April 8, saying the health agency must “get its priorities right”. He said the US would conduct a study to decide whether it would continue paying contributions,
Also answering questions at the briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was “re-evaluating our funding” of the WHO, adding: “Organizations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended.”
The new coronavirus first emerged last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which has just ended an 11-week lockdown. An advisor to the WHO chief earlier said their close work with China had been “absolutely essential” in understanding the disease in its early stages.
President Trump’s attacks on the WHO come in the context of criticism of his own administration’s handling of the pandemic, especially early problems with testing.
The WHO approved a coronavirus test in January – but the US decided against using it, developing its own test instead. However, in February, when the testing kits were dispatched, some of them didn’t work properly and led to inconclusive results.
Public health experts say the delay enabled the virus to spread further within the US.
Dr. Tedros said: “Please, unity at national level, no using Covid or political points.
“Second, honest solidarity at the global level. And honest leadership from the US and China. “
“The most powerful should lead the way and please quarantine Covid politics,” he appealed, in comments seen as a response to President Trump, who said on Tuesday the WHO appeared to be “very biased toward China”.
President Trump said: “They called it wrong. They really – they missed the call.
“And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see.”
The US is one of the WHO’s largest voluntary funders, with WHO data suggesting they contribute 15% to its overall budget.
The WHO chief said that he had been at the receiving end of racist comments for the past two to three months.
He said: “Giving me names, black or negro.
“I’m proud of being black, or proud of being negro.”
Dr. Tedros then said he had got death threats, adding – “I don’t give a damn.”
Referring to the abuse, the WHO chief said it had originated from Taiwan, “and the foreign ministry didn’t disassociate” itself from it.
However, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen dismissed this, saying her country is against discrimination.
“For years, we have been excluded from international organizations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated,” Reuters quoted her as saying.
Taiwan, which is excluded from the WHO because of China’s objections to its membership, has said it has been unable to access important information during the coronavirus outbreak. The WHO denies this.
On April 8, Dr. Tedros played down the financial threat, saying he believed that US funding would continue.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres had earlier added his voice to the defense of the organization. He described the outbreak as “unprecedented” and said any assessment of how it was handled should be an issue for the future.
He said: “Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also reportedly offered his support to the WHO in a call to Dr. Tedros on April 8.
“He reaffirmed his trust, his support for the institution and refuses to see it locked into a war between China and the USA,” a French presidency official told Reuters.