The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday expressed “regret” that President Trump intends to cut off U.S. funding to the agency over its handling of the coronavirus, but pointedly avoided criticizing the U.S. move.
Instead, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of global unity in the face of the pandemic.
“This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat,” he told reporters from the agency’s WHO headquarters in Geneva. “When we are divided, the coronavirus exploits the cracks between us.”
Tedros added: “For now, our focus, my focus, is on stopping the coronavirus and saving lives. … WHO is getting on with the job.”
The remarks came a day after Trump — whose name Tedros did not utter — signaled the United States would halt its financial support of the WHO, pending an investigation into the agency and its response to the coronavirus outbreak. He accused the agency of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
Tedros said the WHO would review the impact of the U.S. decision on its work, saying the agency would “work with our partners to fill any financial gaps we face and to ensure our work continues uninterrupted.” He also stressed that, while the WHO is focused on the pandemic, it also serves a role in responding to myriad health issues around the world, including disease around the world like polio, measles, and malaria, along with mental health conditions and non-communicable diseases.
Earlier Wednesday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demurred when asked if the global health agency had failed, as Trump has suggested, and if it was wise to halt funding the midst of a pandemic.
“CDC and WHO has had a long history of working together in multiple outbreaks throughout the world, as we continue to do in this one,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said on “Good Morning America.” “And so, we’ve had a very productive public health relationship. We continue to have that.”