China, UN criticize US decision to cut WHO funding

(Update 2: adds responses by China, others)

Washington DC/Beijing, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- China on Wednesday joined the United Nations and other nations in criticizing the United States’ decision to cut off funding to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Beijing was “seriously concerned” by the decision, announced by US President Donald Trump late on Tuesday, and urged the US to “fulfill its responsibilities and obligations” towards the WHO and help it lead the international campaign against the coronavirus pandemic.

The spokesperson said the freezing of funds would weaken WHO’s capabilities and undermine international cooperation at a crucial juncture in the fight against the disease, which could harm the US itself, as well as countries with weak healthcare systems.

Hours earlier United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres had also issued a statement against the decision by Trump, whose administration has alleged that WHO’s “mismanagement” and a cover-up along with China played a big part in the pandemic intensifying.

“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,” Guterres said..

“But now is not that time,” he added. “It also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”

“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,” the UN chief said.

Trump had justified his decision by using the WHO’s initial opposition to the closure of borders to combat the spread of the virus. He also blamed the organization for not having acted sooner and for having not only trusted, but also having “praised” the Chinese government.

“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” the US president announced during a press conference at the White House.

“As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability,” Trump said, adding that Washington contributes $400-500 million annually, while China contributes about $40 million.

The decision was met with criticism by several world leaders, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. Ardern said in her daily press briefing that WHO’s work was “incredibly important.”

“At a time like this, where we need to be sharing information ,where we need to have advice that we can rely on, the WHO has been doing that,” she said.

“Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to @WHO. There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain & mitigate the #coronavirus pandemic. Only by joining forces we can overcome this crisis that knows no borders,” Borrell tweeted on Wednesday.

Trump had first threatened to suspend US funding to the WHO on Apr. 8, accusing it of having a “bias” toward China and of being “wrong” about COVID-19, although he acknowledged that doing so in the midst of a pandemic was perhaps not the most appropriate thing.

His decision to carry out his threat just a week later is reminiscent of his withdrawal from UNESCO, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the nuclear pact with Iran. EFE-EPA


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