Johannesburg - African leaders have
rallied around the Ethiopian head of the World Health
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
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
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
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."