FILE PHOTO: Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
GENEVA/ZURICH (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that he regretted President Trump’s decision to pull funding for the agency and called for world unity to fight the new coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to halt funding to the WHO over its handling of the pandemic prompted condemnation on Wednesday from world leaders as recorded global infections passed the 2 million mark.
“The United States of America has been a long-standing and generous friend of the WHO and we hope it will continue to be so,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference. “We regret the decision of the president of the United States to order a halt in the funding to the WHO.”
The United States is the largest donor to the WHO, providing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
Tedros added: “WHO is reviewing the impact of our work of any withdrawal of U.S. funding and we will work with partners to fill any gaps and ensure our work continues uninterrupted.”
But now was the time for the world to be united in its common struggle against the outbreak, which he described as a “dangerous enemy”.
Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergencies expert, said that there would be opportunities in coming weeks and months to discuss WHO’s budget with its other 193 states.
“We are laser-focused on doing a very important job and that is suppressing this virus and saving lives,” Ryan said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields