Trump's move to cut WHO funding prompts world condemnation
Updated 08:59, 16-Apr-2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) logo /Reuters

The World Health Organization (WHO) logo /Reuters

China urged the United States on Wednesday to fulfill its obligations to the World Health Organization (WHO), after U.S. President Donald Trump halted funding to the body over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during a daily briefing that the situation with the pandemic, which has infected nearly 2 million people globally, was at a critical stage and that the U.S.' decision would affect all countries of the world, especially the weak countries. 

As the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security, the WHO plays an irreplaceable role in responding to the global public health crisis.  

Especially since the outbreak of COVID-19, the organization, under the leadership of Tedros Adhanom, has fulfilled its responsibilities and played a central role in promoting international anti-epidemic cooperation and has won recognition from the international community. 

Zhao urged the U.S. to fulfill its obligation and support the WHO's leading role in promoting world cooperation. He stressed that China will continue to support the WHO and play its role in promoting global health and fighting the pandemic. 

China donates $20M to WHO to fight COVID-19

China has always supported the WHO in its leading role in the global fight against COVID-19, Zhao said. 

The country has donated 20 million U.S. dollars to the UN body and will continue to provide support and assistance to the organization within its ability, he said. 


Tedros calls U.S. 'generous' friend, urging international unity to fight COVID-19

Speaking after Trump's announcement, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.S. "has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO and we hope it will continue to be so."

"We regret the decision of the president of the United States to order a halt in the funding to the WHO," Tedros said at press conference in Geneva. 

He said, the "WHO is not only fighting COVID-19. We are also working to address polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer, diabetes, mental health and many other diseases and conditions." 

The United States is the largest WHO donor, providing more than 400 million U.S. dollars in 2019, roughly 15 percent of its budget.

Speaking to CGTN on Wednesday, a WHO spokeswoman defended China's measures to control the outbreak, calling it "bellwether" for other countries. 

WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said China deserves praise for its fight against the coronavirus outbreak since the country has seen some major success in combating and controlling it.

No country is an exact model for other countries, but transparency and information from the experience of China has been given to clinics, public health and experts around the world, allowing them to consider what to do in their, she said.


UN chief says 'not the time' to reduce WHO resources after Trump announcement 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday it was "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."

"Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences," he said.

EU 'deeply regrets' Trump's decision, says it is unjustified 

The European Union (EU) joined worldwide condemnation of Trump's decision, saying on Wednesday it was unjustified during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Deeply regret U.S. decision to suspend funding to WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter. 

Russia slams 'selfish' U.S. move 

U.S. President Donald Trump's freeze on funding for the World Health Organization is a selfish response to the global coronavirus pandemic, a senior Russian official said Wednesday. 

"We see yesterday's announcement by Washington on freezing funding of the WHO as most concerning," deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency TASS. "It is a sign of the very selfish approach of the U.S. authorities to what is happening in the world due to the pandemic," he added. 

"Such a blow to this organisation just when the international community is looking towards it... is a step worthy of condemnation and every reproach," the diplomat said. He said Russia is urging the U.S. to "cease further attacks on the WHO and take a responsible course." 

Iran Zarif: Trump's defunding is killing people

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also joined the condemnation, linking the move to killing people.

"The world is learning what Iran has known & experienced all along: U.S. regime's bullying, threatening & vainglorious blathering isn't just an addiction: it kills people," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

"Like "maximum pressure" against Iran, the shameful defunding WHO amid a pandemic will live in infamy," he added.


German FM slams Trump's decision to halt WHO funding

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday also criticized Trump's decision.

"Blaming does not help. The virus knows no borders. We must cooperate closely against COVID-19," said Maas on his Twitter account. "One of the best investments is that the United Nations, especially the underfunded WHO, to strengthen, for example in the development and distribution of tests and vaccines."

'We need advice we can rely on,' says New Zealand PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "At a time like this when we need to be sharing information and we need to have advice we can rely on, the WHO has provided that. We will continue to support it and continue to make our contributions."  

Bill Gates says Trump's decision is as dangerous as it sounds 

The President's decision to withhold funding to the WHO pending a review of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic is "as dangerous as it sounds," Bill Gates said Wednesday. 

"Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever," Gates said in a tweet. 

"Our foundation's stance is very clear. We feel at this moment of global crisis, halting funding for the WHO is very dangerous. Since the pandemic began, the WHO's work has helped slow the spread of the pandemic. If its work is stopped now, no other organization can substitute it. The world needs the WHO now more than ever. So we are very worried about this," said Li Yinuo, director of China Country Office at the Gates Foundation.


Democrats blast Trump's move 

Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that the move "makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in." 

"The White House knows that it grossly mishandled this crisis from the beginning, ignoring multiple warnings and squandering valuable time, dismissing medical science, comparing COVID-19 to the common cold, and saying 'everything will be fine,'" Leahy, who also serves on the subcommittee overseeing foreign operations, added. "Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others." 

Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), an outspoken critic of the president, said in a tweet that the announcement felt like a "distraction."

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called it a "grade school caliber attempt to deflect attention from his China fawning and his ongoing negligence since." 

Medical workers step over bodies as they search a refrigerated trailer at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, April 3, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. /AP

Medical workers step over bodies as they search a refrigerated trailer at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, April 3, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. /AP

Doctors, scientists urge Trump to reconsider  

American Medical Association President, Dr Patrice Harris called it "a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier" and urged Trump to reconsider.

Dr Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security said, "The move sends the wrong message" during the middle of a pandemic.

The WHO collects information about where the virus is active in every county in the world, which the United States needs to help guide decisions about when to open borders, he said.

U.S. health care advocacy group Protect Our Care said the withdrawal was "nothing more than a transparent attempt by President Trump to distract from his history downplaying the severity of the coronavirus crisis and his administration's failure to prepare our nation."

"To be sure, the World Health Organization is not without fault but it is beyond irresponsible to cut its funding at the height of a global pandemic," said Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care.

(With input from Reuters, AFP)