The decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) triggered on Wednesday a wave of criticism from European nations, as well as a joint call for solidarity in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump announced that he had instructed his administration to suspend funding to the WHO, which he accused of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
However, the European Union (EU) and various European nations said “no” to blame and division. They have expressed support and commitment to the international organization responsible for global public health.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, tweeted: “Deeply regret U.S. 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.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on his Twitter account, “Blaming does not help. The virus knows no borders. We must cooperate closely against COVID-19.”
“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,” Maas added.
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) highlighted that the UN body is “key international organization in this pandemic.”
“Multilateralism and international collaboration are central to successfully fighting COVID-19 together,” the FOPH was cited by the Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS.
In Ireland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney became the first senior Irish official who has openly criticized the decision by Trump. He described the move as “indefensible” and “shocking.”
“This is [an] indefensible decision, in [the]midst of global pandemic” when so many vulnerable people around the world rely on the WHO, Coveney tweeted.
“Deliberately undermining funding and trust now is shocking,” he said, adding that “Now is a time for global leadership and unity to save lives, not division and blame!”
Also on Wednesday, Britain highlighted the important role of the WHO in spearheading the global health response.
“Our position is that the UK has no plans to stop funding the WHO, which has an important role to play in leading the global health response,” a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a media briefing, adding that “Coronavirus is a global challenge and it’s essential that countries work together to tackle this shared threat.”
Across the English Channel, France regrets the U.S. decision on suspension of WHO funding.
France expects “a return to normal” so that the WHO could pursue its work, French government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said at a press conference following a cabinet meeting.
In addition, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto termed the U.S. decision as “a major setback.”
Talking to the Finnish news agency STT, Haavisto said that “the work of the WHO is needed especially these days for overcoming the coronavirus.”
In stark contrast to the U.S. move, the Finnish government on Wednesday pledged to increase its funding for the WHO by restoring it to the 2015 level — 5.5 million euros (6 million U.S. dollars).
The WHO is leading the global effort to prepare for and respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finland is one of the vice-chairs of the WHO Executive Board and supports a strong WHO, the government noted in the statement.
Moreover, some former WHO officials also rendered support for the organization.
Professor Anthony Costello, a British pediatrician and former director of the Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health at the WHO, said on Wednesday that it would “be extremely damaging to America’s reputation worldwide” if the U.S. goes ahead with Trump’s decision.
Speaking in a TV program of the Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE, Costello said the WHO has given much support to the world’s poorest countries in terms of testing, research and development in the fight against the pandemic.
In Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press conference the WHO regretted the U.S. decision to halt funding. The organization’s performance in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic will be reviewed by WHO’s member states “in due course,” he added.
Tedros called on all the nations to be united in the common struggle against a common pandemic, because “when we are divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.” Enditem