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UN Leader Calls for Global Solidarity Behind WHO-led Anti-COVID Campaign

By VOA News May 18, 2020

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the World Health Organization's annual assembly Monday by echoing the agency's calls for global solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease is caused by the coronavirus.

In a virtual address to the WHO's decision-making body, the U.N. chief called the ongoing coronavirus outbreak "the greatest challenge of our age" and said it is still not clear when effective treatments or vaccines will become available.

He also reiterated the need to support the WHO, which he described as "irreplaceable," and, "particularly to provide support to developing countries, which must be our greatest concern."

While most leaders have pledged support for WHO, several have joined U.S. President Donald's Trumps call for a review of the organization and its practices. President Trump suspended funding to the agency in April over its handling of the pandemic. He said it had promoted China's "disinformation" about the virus and cost thousands of lives. The outbreak started in Wuhan, China.

Separately, Guterres said it was a "false dichotomy" to assume governments would be choosing between saving their citizens or their economies.

He called for the G20 countries to urgently consider a large-scale stimulus package that would amount to a "double-digit percentage of global GDP." He said it is crucial the world act together but questioned the global commitment to do so. "We can do it, but will we?

"Either we get through this pandemic together, or we fail."

The U.N. chief said different countries have followed different, sometimes contradictory strategies. "Many countries have ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organization. "As a result, the virus has spread across the world."

The virtual assembly includes addresses from other world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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