A day after US President Donald Trump came down heavily on the World Health Organisation (WHO) over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and threatened to freeze funding, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday urged support for the world body.
“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,” Guterres said in a statement.
“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 accused it of keeping the world in dark.
“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO,” said Trump, who pursues an “America First” agenda and has previously criticized other UN and multilateral agencies.
According to Trump, the WHO “seems to be very biased toward China. That’s not right.”
President Donald Trump further asked why the WHO had given “such a faulty recommendation,” apparently referring to the UN body’s advice against curtailing international travel to stop the virus which first spread from China.
“Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on,” Trump said, referring to his decision to ban travel from the country.
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.