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African Union defends WHO chief after Trump criticism

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization File picture: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization File picture: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP

Published Apr 9, 2020


Johannesburg - African leaders have

rallied around the Ethiopian head of the World Health

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Organization (WHO) after US President Donald Trump criticised

the United Nations agency and threatened to withhold his

country's contribution to its budget.

Trump had on Tuesday accused the WHO of being too focused on

China and of issuing bad advice on the COVID-19 pandemic.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the

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African Union (AU), said in a statement late on Wednesday that

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had shown

"exceptional leadership ... from the very earliest stages of

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this unprecedented global health crisis."

"The AU calls upon the international community to join hands

to support the efforts of the DG and the entire WHO family as

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they lead global efforts to fight this pandemic," Ramaphosa


"If there was a time for global unity, solidarity and

cooperation, this is that time."

Posting on Twitter, Rwanda's Paul Kagame said the WHO chief

"has the full confidence and support of Africa," while AU

Commission head Moussa Faki urged leaders to focus on fighting

COVID-19 and said the time for accountability would come later.

Tedros, a former foreign minister of Ethiopia, has rejected

Trump's suggestion that the WHO has been "China-centric" in its

efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

"We are close to every nation, we are colour-blind," he said

on Wednesday, adding the WHO had "kept the world informed about

the latest data, information and evidence."

China has said Tedros had played an important role in

promoting international cooperation to combat the pandemic,

which has infected more than 1.47 million people and killed more

than 87 000, according to the latest Reuters tally.

Africa accounts for a fraction of global cases of the

disease, but its countries are feeling the impact with economies

expected to contract, putting about 20 million jobs at risk.

"The window for containing the virus at the subnational and

national level is closing in many countries," Tedros told

diplomats in Geneva on Thursday. "The infection numbers in

Africa are relatively small now, but they are growing fast." 


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