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Trump under fire over WHO funding freeze

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WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 14: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the Rose Garden at the White House April 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced that he is halting funding for the World Health Organization WHO. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

The US decision to freeze funding to the World Health Organization over what President Donald Trump said was its “mismanaging” of the global coronavirus pandemic triggered anger and concern on Wednesday.

Trump announced Tuesday that the United States would halt payments to the UN body that amounted to $400 million last year.

The funding would be frozen pending a review into the WHO’s role in “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” said Trump, who accused the Geneva-based body of putting “political correctness above life-saving measures.”

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He charged that the outbreak could have been contained “with very little death” if the WHO had accurately assessed the situation in China, where the disease broke out late last year.

Here are some of the reactions from across the world to Trump’s move:

No time to waste’
“There is no time to waste. WHO’s the singular focus is on working to serve all people to save lives and stop the COVID-19 pandemic” — WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Twitter.

‘Critical to war against virus’
“(It is) 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” — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“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.”

‘Undermining international cooperation ‘
“China is seriously concerned about the US announcement to suspend funding for the World Health Organization” — Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

“The current global epidemic situation is grim. It is at a critical moment. This US decision will weaken WHO’s capacities and undermine international cooperation against the epidemic.”

‘No justification’
“Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to WHO” — EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Twitter.

“There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

“Only by joining forces, we can overcome this crisis that knows no borders.”

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‘Deeply regrettable’
“The USgovt decision to suspend funding to @WHO is deeply regrettable” — African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat on Twitter.

“Today more than ever, the world depends on WHO’s leadership to steer the global #Covid_19 pandemic response. Our collective responsibility to ensure WHO can fully carry out its mandate, has never been more urgent.”

‘Blaming others won’t help’
“Blaming others won’t help. The virus knows no borders” — German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Twitter.

“One of the best investments is to strengthen the UN, above all the under-financed WHO… in the development and distribution of tests and vaccines.”

‘Selfish approach’
“It is a sign of the very selfish approach of the US authorities to what is happening in the world due to the pandemic” — Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov.

“Such a blow to this organisation just when the international community is looking towards it… is a step worthy of condemnation and every reproach.”

‘Need WHO more than ever’
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization 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” — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Twitter. Through his foundation, Gates is one of the main private funders of the WHO.

‘Weakening central institution’
“The last thing we need now is to attack the WHO” — former WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland in a statement to AFP.

“This means weakening our central global institution,” said the 71-year-old doctor and former Norwegian prime minister.

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