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Shape up in 30 days or face permanent funds-freeze, Trump warns WHO

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on May 19, 2020

US President Donald Trump   -  Reuters

This, amidst calls for a strong WHO, and agreement on independent review

The world needs a stronger WHO was the message from many quarters at the 73rd World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the World Health Organisation being hosted virtually from Geneva.

This, even as the US continued its relentless attack against WHO. Against the backdrop of the two-day assembly, US President Donald Trump sent a letter to WHO Director, General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, calling for “substantive improvements” to the WHO in one month. In the absence of this, the letter said, he would make permanent the US’ temporary freeze on funding to WHO, besides reconsidering its membership.

Trump’s unhappiness with the WHO stems from what he calls its too “China-centric” approach towards Covid-19. Trump did not address the assembly’s inaugural session, even as other top global leaders did. In fact, the address that many closely tuned in to was that of Chinese President Xi Jinping who committed $2 billion to WHO over two years.

Away from the political blame-game, health advocacy groups are hoping that the assembly will also see world leaders commit to equitable access to vaccines, medicines and medical tech being developed to tackle the virus.

This is more so as two Covid vaccine projects recently reported developments, one positive, the other not so.

The vaccine candidate from Moderna is getting into the second phase of the clinical trial on the back of positive developments. But the Oxford Vaccine Group suffered a setback with the vaccine candidate showing only partial protection against the virus in monkeys.

Operations review

Amid the criticism and support, WHO’s chief cautioned in his opening day remarks that a majority of the world’s population was still susceptible to this virus. “The risk remains high and we have a long road to travel,” he said. Highlighting the WHO’s efforts, he said, “We have called for equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics through the ACT Accelerator.”

On calls for transparency and accountability, he said the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee had just published its first report on the pandemic, with several recommendations for both the Secretariat and Member States. But for reviews to be truly comprehensive, “such an evaluation must encompass the entirety of the response by all actors, in good faith,” he added.

Published on May 19, 2020

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