UN: Now is Not Time to Cut WHO Funds

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (left) with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing in Geneva. (UN Photo)

UN News

Now is a time for unity in the global battle to push the COVID-19 pandemic into reverse, not a time to cut the resources of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is spearheading and coordinating the global body’s efforts, said UN chief António Guterres, on Tuesday.

“As I said on 8 April, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences”, he added.

The UN chief’s statement, came as the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced early on Tuesday evening that he was halting funding for the UN health agency, pending a review of its response to the initial outbreak.

WHO, with thousands of its staff aiding and assisting operations across the world to limit the transmission of the coronavirus, “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”, said the Secretary-General.

“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.”

Reiterating the argument which he made last week, the UN chief noted that given the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 and the subsequent global response that was needed to defeat it, “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.”

The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future”, Mr. Guterres added. “But now is not that time.”

Resources must be maintained

Until then, “it also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”

Mr. Guterres made it clear that unity must prevail, so that the international community can work together, “in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”

Ever since the disease emerged in Wuhan, China, and the first case of a pneumonia “of unknown cause” was reported to WHO on 31 December last year, the agency has been working 24/7 to analyze data, provide advice, coordinate with partners, and help countries prepare. The outbreak was declared a Public Heath Emergency of International Concern, a month later.

See our piece here, on five of the key ways that the agency has been leading the global response.

As of Tuesday, there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases, according to WHO figures, with more than 117,000 confirmed deaths, and 213 countries, areas or territories with cases of the new coronavirus.


WHO’s Tedros says Trump is ‘supportive,’ hopes U.S. won’t cut funding as threatened


Sketch of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. (Image via Dagi Pen Art @dag_doni/Twitter)

The Washington Post
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World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that his relationship with President Trump remained good, despite the U.S. leader’s threats to cut funding to the global health body.

“What I know is that he is supportive and I hope that the funding to WHO will continue. The relationship we have is very good and I hope that will continue,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva, noting that the two had last spoken two weeks ago and that the United States was the largest donor to WHO.

Trump is likely to announce restrictions on U.S. funding for the WHO this week over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the administration and conservative allies ramped up their criticism that the United Nations agency catered to China early in the outbreak and jeopardized global health.

Trump hinted at a temporary hold on U.S. funding Friday but said he wanted to wait until after Easter to announce anything. He said his administration would discuss the organization “in great detail” this week, adding that he did not want to go further “before we had all the facts.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials are expected to recommend to Trump how to dock or condition payments to the agency.

At their news briefing Monday, WHO officials pushed back on criticism voiced by Trump and other U.S. officials who said that the organization had overlooked evidence of human-to-human transmission in the early days of the outbreak.

Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, said that it was always assumed that human-to-human transmission was possible and noted that the possibility was included in advisories Jan. 10 and 11. Van Kerkhove also said she mentioned it herself at a Jan. 14 news conference.

“In fact, that got quite a few headlines,” Van Kerkhove said.

Read more here.


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