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Iran Press TV

Trump's freezing of funding to WHO amid pandemic draws global censure

Iran Press TV

Wednesday, 15 April 2020 10:01 AM

US President Donald Trump's move to freeze America's funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) – the body leading the global fight against the new coronavirus pandemic – has drawn global censure.

China, where the virus first emerged, said on Wednesday that the US had to fulfill its obligations to the WHO at a time when some two million people were ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also said at a regular press briefing that the US's refusal to contribute funding came at a critical stage and would affect all countries in the world.

Trump, who is under immense pressure for his slow and inadequate response to the American outbreak, said on Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to the US's funding to the WHO because of what he alleged to be the body's mishandling of the global health crisis.

Over 607,000 have been affected and more than 28,000 have died in the US so far. Individual US states have taken over the management of the crisis, often breaking with the federal administration, which continues to act in an underwhelming fashion in responding to the outbreak.

Zhao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, was asked whether China would step in to fill the shortfall in WHO funding caused by America's withdrawal of its aid.

"China will look into relevant issues according to the needs of the situation," he said diplomatically.

The US is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO. In 2019, the US contributed more than 400 million dollars to the body, roughly 15 percent of its budget.

The WHO has been leading the global fight against the pandemic. Its experts have been working to develop vaccination for COVID-19, issuing guidelines on specific measures to contain the spread of the virus, and coordinating countries' individual efforts. The US's freezing of its funding now risks undercutting the body's measures as the outbreak grows in almost every country in the world.

Separately on Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter that assigning "blame doesn't help. The virus knows no borders," in an apparent reference to Trump's assertions against the WHO.

"We have to work closely together against #COVID19. One of the best investments is to strengthen the @UN, especially the under-funded @WHO, for example for developing and distributing tests and vaccines," Maas wrote.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also defended the WHO.

"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," Ardern said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he sympathized with Trump's criticism of the WHO but added that the WHO does a lot of important work as an organization.

"We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, but they are also not immune from criticism and immune from doing things better," he said.

Meanwhile, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to reduce resources for WHO operations.

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

Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the Trump administration's move "sends the wrong message during the middle of a pandemic."

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

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