UN chief asks for support for WHO after Trump's threat to freeze funding


File photo of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for support for the World Health Organization (WHO) after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to freeze U.S. funding.

"It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against COVID-19," said Guterres in a statement.

"This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities," he said, in an apparent reference to Trump's criticism of the WHO.

Guterres' spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, read out the statement to reporters after he was asked for the secretary-general's response to Trump's threat.

Guterres indicated that there will be a review of the WHO's approach to the pandemic -- but only after the virus has been contained.

"Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future," said Guterres in the statement.

But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences, he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences, Guterres noted.

The WHO, with thousands of its staff, is on the front lines, supporting member states and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus, he said.

Guterres highlighted the WHO's success in containing Ebola in Africa.

"I witnessed first-hand the courage and determination of WHO staff when I visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year, where WHO staff are working in precarious conditions and very dangerous remote locations as they fight the deadly Ebola virus."

It has been a remarkable success for the WHO that no new cases of Ebola have been registered in months, he said.

Trump on Tuesday criticized the WHO's response to COVID-19 and threatened to freeze U.S. funding for it.