African Union defends WHO against Trump’s ‘China-centric’ attack, threat to withdraw funding

•  Trump attacked WHO on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.

• Threatened to put a hold on the US funding for the agency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom and US President Donal Trump / COURTESY

ADDIS ABABA – The African Union Commission chairman has told off US President Donald Trump over his criticism of the World Health Organization leadership.

Chairman Moussa Faki said the AU fully supports WHO leadership, which is led by Director-General Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia.

“I am surprised to learn a campaign by the US government against WHO’s leadership. The African Union fully supports WHO and Dr Tedros,” Faki said on Wednesday.

The AUC boss said the focus should remain on collectively fighting Covid-19 as a “united global community”.

“The time for accountability will come,” he noted.

Faki was responding to Trump’s scathing attack on WHO on Tuesday, accusing it of being too focused on China and issuing bad advice during the coronavirus outbreak.

He threatened to put a hold on the US funding for the agency.

“The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

“For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?” Trump tweeted.

He repeated the accusations against the UN agency at a White House news briefing later on Tuesday.

“They called it wrong. They really — they missed the call,” Trump said.

“And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.”

Reacting to the attack, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric rejected the criticism, saying WHO has done a tremendous job.

“For the Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres], it is clear that WHO, under the leadership of Dr. Tedros, has done tremendous work on Covid, in supporting countries with millions of pieces of equipment being shipped out, on helping countries with training, on providing global guidelines – WHO is showing the strength of the international health system,” he told reporters.

Tedros and WHO as an institution were yet to respond to the attack by Wednesday.

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob added his voice on Wednesday, saying WHO, under the stewardship of Dr Tedros has shown itself “to be a true flag-bearer of multilaterarism when global solidarity has become critical”.

“Let’s hold hands in this crucial moment and focus on what matters, saving lives,” he tweeted.

Reuters reported that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, vowed there would not be any funding for the WHO in the next Senate appropriations bill.

“I’m in charge of the appropriations subcommittee. I’m not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership. They’ve been deceptive, they’ve been slow and they’ve been Chinese apologists,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

Relations between the US and China have been tense amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

For two straight months, officials of the two states have heaped blame on each other to divert attention away from the pain of the crisis and from their own missteps, Los Angeles Times said on Tuesday.

“It has strengthened hard-liners in both countries, and political pressures stemming from the pandemic are making it harder for leaders to back away from escalation,” the publication added.

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