BEIJING (Xinhua) — The international community has regretted U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), voicing support for and highlighting the organization’s crucial role in guiding global efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump announced Tuesday that his administration is halting the nation’s funding to the WHO, which he accused of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
This triggered widespread backlash and criticism across the world on Wednesday. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO regretted the U.S. decision.
“The U.S. has been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so,” he told a virtual press conference from Geneva.
Tedros called on all the nations to be united in the common struggle against the common pandemic, because “when we are divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”
Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney described the U.S. decision as “indefensible” and “shocking.”
“This is indefensible decision in midst of global pandemic. So many vulnerable populations rely on WHO — deliberately undermining funding & trust now is shocking. Now is a time for global leadership & unity to save lives, not division and blame!” he tweeted.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemned the Trump administration’s decision, saying “the U.S. act to punish the only coordinator of world health affairs amid the fight against a global disaster is the utmost irresponsibility and crime against humanity.”
“Main aim of Trump’s decision to defund WHO is blaming others and covering up the U.S. government’s inefficiency in dealing with the novel coronavirus,” said Mousavi.
The African Union (AU) said the U.S. decision is “deeply regrettable.”
“Today more than ever the world depends on WHO’s leadership to steer the global COVID-19 pandemic response,” tweeted AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.
“Our collective responsibility to ensure WHO can fully carry out its mandate has never been more urgent,” he added.
Noting the U.S. funding suspension is “a major setback,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told Finnish news agency STT that “the work of the WHO is needed especially these days for overcoming the coronavirus.”
The Finnish government pledged to increase its funding for the WHO by restoring it to the 2015 level — 5.5 million euros (6 million U.S. dollars).
“It is a decision that we regret,” French government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye told a press conference following a cabinet meeting.
France expects “a return to normal” so that the WHO could pursue its work, she added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also slammed the U.S. decision.
“Blaming does not help. The virus knows no borders. We must cooperate closely against COVID-19,” said Maas on Twitter. “One of the best investments is that the United Nations, especially the underfunded WHO, to strengthen, for example in the development and distribution of tests and vaccines.”
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Twitter the U.S. decision is “attack vs intl community.”
“It’s criminal to do so amidst the pandemic. It’s a selfish action intended to distract attention from inefficient response & neglect of its people. Cuba will keep working with WHO in defense of solidarity & cooperation,” he tweeted.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates tweeted that halting funding for the WHO during a world health crisis is “as dangerous as it sounds.”
“Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” the philanthropist stressed.
The United States is the country worst hit by COVID-19, registering more than 637,000 confirmed cases and over 30,000 deaths by Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University tally. More than 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with over 136,000 deaths have been reported globally.