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UN chief defends WHO following Trump accusations

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-04-09 11:39

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 (previously named novel coronavirus) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The chief of the United Nations has called for support for the World Health Organization a day after US President Donald Trump blamed the UN agency for getting "every aspect" of the coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to withhold 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," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement Wednesday.

In the statement, Guterres said the "unprecedented virus" requires an unprecedented response, and it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities.

"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," Guterres said.

"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 said.

The UN chief's comments followed Trump's latest criticism of the international agency at a news conference a day before.

"The WHO ... receives vast amounts of money from the United States," Trump said. "And they actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it. And they were wrong. They've been wrong about a lot of things."

Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, arrive for an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb 24, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Trump at first suggested that the US may end funding, then said, "We will look at ending funding."

The chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, also expressed his backing for the WHO.

"Surprised to learn of a campaign by the US govt against @WHO's global leadership. The @_AfricanUnion fully supports @WHO and @DrTedros," Mahamat tweeted on Wednesday. "The focus should remain on collectively fighting #Covid19 as a united global community. The time for accountability will come."

Also on Wednesday, in his video conference call with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his belief "that the WHO is key to respond" to the coronavirus crisis.

While in Geneva on Wednesday, Tedros pleaded for global solidarity and national unity to fight the coronavirus pandemic when he was asked to comment on Trump's criticism.

"For God's sake, we have lost more than 60,000 citizens of the world, even one person is precious. What are we doing?" Tedros said.

He warned that nations will have "more body bags" if there are cracks at the national and global levels that allow the novel coronavirus to spread further.

"Please don't politicize this virus. It exploits the differences you have at the national level," he said. "If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.

"Please quarantine politicizing COVID. If we want to win, we shouldn't waste time pointing fingers," he said.

"And now, the United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy," he said, adding that the rest of the G20 and the rest of the world should come together to fight it.

Over the past few months, the WHO chief said that for the first time he has been targeted by racial remarks and even death threats.

"To me personally, I don't mind. I prefer to really focus on saving lives," he said. "Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?"

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