COVID-19: Ramaphosa comes to WHO’s defence after Trump threatens to cut funding

Cyril Ramaphosa. Image credit: Twitter/The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has come to the defence of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, amid US criticism of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement issued in his capacity as African Union (AU) Chairperson on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said he and the AU “commended the management of Dr Tedros in leading the global response to the pandemic.”

“The AU calls upon international community to join hands to support the efforts of the DG and the entire WHO family as they lead global efforts to fight this pandemic,” he said.

Trump threatens to cut US funding to WHO

Earlier on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump criticised the WHO for being “wrong about a lot of things,” not acting fast enough against the pandemic, and being “China-centric.”

He said, “They called it wrong, they called it wrong. They missed the call. They could have called it months earlier.

“They would have known and they should have known and they probably did know. So we’ll be looking into that very carefully and we’re going to put a hold on money [sent] to the WHO.”

However, Ramaphosa urged global leaders to “avoid temptation to apportion blame to any individual, institution or any country at a time when we should all be working together.”

EFF echoes Ramaphosa’s comments

“The most potent weapon against COVID-19 remains international cooperation and solidarity, as we have seen around the world,” Ramaphosa added.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) echoed the President’s comments in a more blunt statement on Thursday.

It called on the international community to unite against Trump and his government’s “attempt to destabilise WHO” during a crisis that threatens “the very existence of humanity.”

“We therefore join the international community in calling for more international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19. This is not the time for ‘us versus them.’ The enemy is not a foreign country or people – it is a virus that will certainly kill us all,” the EFF said.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Tedros said he had received “racist abuse” and death threats while leading the global response against the pandemic.

He however added, “I don’t care who says what about me. I would prefer to focus on saving lives.”

African leaders such as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Namibian President Hage Geingob, and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat also expressed support for Tedros on social media.

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