South Africa has expressed concern and alarm at the US government’s decision to cut funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said South Africa was “particularly alarmed” that the US took the decision amid the COVID-19 global health crisis.
“It is alarming that this very regrettable decision is announced as this deadly virus strikes Africa and the poorest and most vulnerable states,” DIRCO’s spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.
WHO ‘mismanaged’ response – Trump
US President Donald Trump made the announcement at a press briefing on Wednesday, accusing the WHO of “mismanaging” its response to the pandemic.
He said, “Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
The US is one of the largest contributors to the WHO’s $6 billion budget, sending just over $550m (around R10.2 billion) in 2019.
Monyela said Trump’s announcement will have a “significantly adverse impact on [WHO’s] programmes and the world’s ability to fight and eliminate this pandemic.”
Mkhize backs WHO
He added, “We believe that, more than ever before, the WHO deserves increased support from member states in particular to bolster its efforts to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic.
“We are hopeful that the government of the United States will reconsider its decision and re-join the international community in fighting this pandemic.”
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize also threw his weight behind the WHO on Wednesday evening, saying South Africa has full confidence in the organisation and its Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We believe that their leadership has been fairly helpful. They have been sensitive. They’ve also managed this issue of the pandemic in an exemplary way that we believe has been able to give us guidance in the right time,” he said.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as African Union Chairperson, similarly backed the WHO and Dr Tedros.
He 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.”