UN Chief defends WHO as Trump slams it on virus handling

Foreign Desk Report

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has defended the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying the UN agency had done “tremendous work” in fighting coronavirus, after US President Donald Trump accused it of being “China centric” and criticized its handling of the pandemic.
“For the Secretary General, it is clear that WHO under the leadership of DrTedros (AdhanomGhebreyesus) has done tremendous work on COVID-19 in supporting countries with millions of pieces of equipment being shipped out, on helping countries with training, on providing global guidelines,” StephaneDujarric, spokesperson for UN Chief Antonio Guterres, told reporters in response to a question.
“WHO is showing the strength of the international health system,” he added.
The spokesman was asked whether the secretary-general has a comment on Trump’s statement in which he denounced the WHO and threatened to review US funding of the Geneva-based agency.
“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?” Trump tweeted earlier in the day.
Dujarric said looking back, WHO has also done tremendous work in fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, putting its staff in the frontlines.
“We have seen great success in the way the WHO-led efforts to fight Ebola in the DRC and surrounding countries has had under the leadership of DrTedros,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, vowed there would not be any funding for the WHO in the next Senate appropriations bill.
“I’m in charge of the appropriations subcommittee. I’m not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership. They’ve been deceptive, they’ve been slow and they’ve been Chinese apologists,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News Channel.
Trump on Tuesday also accused the United States’ Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general of having produced a “fake dossier” on American hospitals suffering shortages of personal protective equipment on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak. Trump did not provide any reason for questioning the report on those shortages. On Jan. 31, the WHO advised countries to keep borders open despite the outbreak, although it

noted that countries had the right to take measures to try to protect their citizens. That same day, Trump’s administration announced restrictions on travel from China.
U.S. conservatives have increasingly criticized the WHO during the global pandemic, saying it relied on faulty data from China about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Last week, Republican Senator Marco Rubio called for the resignation of Tedros, saying “he allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community.” But most commentators brushed aside Trump’s attacks on WHO, saying he was shifting the blame to the UN agency to hide his failure to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
World Health Organization officials on Wednesday denied that the body was “China-centric” and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would put contributions on hold. The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body which Trump said had issued bad advice during the new coronavirus outbreak. U.S. contributions to WHO in 2019 exceeded $400 million, almost double the 2nd largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed $44 million.
“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Trump’s remarks.
Dr Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, also defended the U.N. agency’s relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak which began in Wuhan. “It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” he told reporters.
“This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically.”
He also defended WHO recommendations to keep borders open, saying that China had worked very hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts and ensure they did not travel in order to contain the outbreak.
On Europe, Kluge described the outbreak of coronavirus there as “very concerning” and urged governments to give “very careful consideration” before relaxing measures to control its spread. “A dramatic rise in cases across the Atlantic skews what remains a very concerning picture in Europe,” he said. “We still have a long way to go in the marathon.”