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Washington must stop making decisions which undermine WHO

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-17 07:15
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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. [Photo/Agencies]

The United States administration's decision on Tuesday to halt its funding for the World Health Organization is nothing but a cruel and desperate effort to shift the blame from its own failures to the global health body amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The move shows the US leader wants to find a scapegoat for his administration's two months of denial, delays and dysfunction as scathing articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times have said.

The US leader is under immense pressure to contain the outbreak, as the number of COVID-19 cases crossed 578,000 and the death toll neared 23,000 on Wednesday. And the announcement came hours after former US president Barack Obama endorsed former vice-president Joe Biden as the Democrat candidate for the 2020 presidential election, putting more pressure on the US leader.

The White House's decision, aimed at distracting American people's attention from the administration's failure, has drawn flak at home and abroad, including from people such as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and The Lancet editor Richard Horton, who called the decision a "crime against humanity".

The WHO is not perfect. No organization or individual is. In fact, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the organization is run by humans, and humans do make mistakes. But experts at the WHO and other parts of the world have been working day and night to develop a vaccine, and giving the best guidance to the world on how to contain the outbreak. Since early January, the WHO has repeatedly sounded alarms over the novel coronavirus, but its warnings seem to have fallen on the deaf ears of many national leaders.

The US move is immoral as it would undermine the WHO at a time when it is leading the global fight against the pandemic. Poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, many of which are in the early stage of the outbreak, badly need the WHO's expertise and medical supplies to combat the virus. Indeed, the WHO's guidance has proved critical even to developed countries in North America and Europe. The US move is also detrimental to its global leadership at a time when its global standing has been plunging.

Also, the US leader is wrong if he assumes that he could bully the WHO. A few days ago, Tedros said that resources would not be a problem if there is global solidarity. The United Kingdom's contribution of $250 million on Monday to the WHO's global response to COVID-19 is but one example of global solidarity. There is no doubt that countries around the world will make up the funding shortfall caused by the US' decision.

While the US leader seems intent on weakening the global fight against the virus, experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health and medical schools have demonstrated their professionalism and solidarity with the WHO. Despite the US leader pointing the finger at China, US scientists and doctors have been constantly holding virtual conferences with their Chinese counterparts to share their experiences in fighting the virus. The WHO has facilitated many such exchanges for its member states.

China has a lot to offer. Despite some initial missteps at the local levels, the central authorities acted decisively to impose a strict lockdown on Wuhan and its parent province of Hubei just before the Chinese Lunar New Year, coupled with aggressive testing, contact tracing, quarantine and treatment of COVID-19 patients, and dispatching more than 42,000 health workers from across the country to Hubei to help fight the outbreak. Thanks to such efforts, China has largely contained the virus at home.

It doesn't matter whether the WHO or the US heap praise on China, because praise is no substitute for strong containment and mitigation measures needed to fight the virus. And China's successful measures are hard-won facts.

So, it's still not too late for the US administration to reverse a decision that will go down in history as a colossal mistake.

The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.

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