The UN’s health body has pushed back against attempts in the US to scapegoat it for the Covid-19 pandemic. Officials denied being ‘China-centric,’ and said defunding it, as Donald Trump has threatened, would hardly be timely now.
“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Hans Kluge, the regional director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), told a virtual briefing on Wednesday.
Several US politicians, starting with the president himself, have accused the WHO of botching its response to the coronavirus by failing to advocate travel bans and other drastic measures in time. The US is the health body’s biggest donor, contributing over $400 million to its coffers last year.
President Trump said he may cut WHO funding, while Senator Lindsey Graham volunteered to do this for the president, using his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing foreign operations.
Several senior US officials said they wanted WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sacked for his alleged mismanagement, even suggesting that he had conspired with China to cover-up the severity of the pandemic. The existence of such an effort is denied by Beijing, but the narrative surged in popularity in the US as Covid-19 took its toll the country.
During the same WHO briefing, Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Ghebreyesus, rejected the notion that the UN body was ‘China-centric,’ contrary to what President Trump had claimed.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” he told the media. “This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and [it] had nothing to do with China specifically.”
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