GENEVA — In a heartfelt plea for unity, the World Health Organization’s chief sought Wednesday to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from U.S. President Donald Trump over the agency’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The vocal defense from the WHO Director-General came a day after Trump blasted the U.N. agency for being “China-centric” and alleging that it had “criticized” his ban of travel from China as the COVID-19 outbreak was spreading from the city of Wuhan. Tedros, an Ethiopian and the WHO’s first African leader, projected humility and minimized his personal role while decrying invective and even racist slurs against him amid the WHO’s response to the disease. The new coronavirus has infected more than 1.4 million people and cost over 83,000 lives across the globe. “Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?” he said. “I know that I am just an individual. Tedros is just a dot in the whole universe.
But he dodged questions about Trump’s comments, while acknowledging the the agency was made up of humans “who make mistakes,” and insisted his key focus was saving lives, not getting caught up in politics.