Ramaphosa defends WHO after Trump virus lashing
US President Donald Trump accused the WHO of having 'called it [the coronavirus] wrong' and months too late, while taking US money but favouring China.
JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his support behind the World Health Organisation (WHO) after it came under stinging attack from US leader Donald Trump over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
A statement from Ramaphosa's office late on Wednesday said he "reaffirms his appreciation for the exceptional leadership" of World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, "from the very earliest stages of this unprecedented global health crisis".
Ramaphosa was speaking in his capacity as the current leader of the African Union (AU).
On Tuesday, Trump threatened to withhold US funding to the WHO, of which the United States is the largest funder.
Trump accused the WHO of having "called it wrong" and months too late, while taking US money but favouring China.
"The WHO really blew it," Trump wrote on Twitter
"For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look."
The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2020
Speaking to reporters later Tuesday, Trump - who is under fire for initially downplaying the disease - said the WHO "seems very biased toward China" and his government "will look at ending funding".
The US is the WHO's biggest funding source.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the WHO "hasn't accomplished what it was intended to deliver".
But Ramaphosa said the 55-nation AU had no such complaints.
"Overall, the AU recognises and appreciates the good work that has been undertaken by the WHO and notes with a sense of satisfaction the various initiatives and measures that are continuously undertaken by the organisation to mitigate the spread of the pandemic," he said.
The new coronavirus, which first appeared in China in December, has gone on to kill more than 87,000 people, while more than 1.5 million people been infected across 192 countries.
The chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted on Wednesday that he was "surprised to learn of a campaign by the US govt against WHO's global leadership".
Tedros on Wednesday also retweeted personal support he had received from the presidents of Nigeria and Rwanda.