S Africa’s Ramaphosa defends WHO after Trump virus lashing

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his support behind the World Health Organization (WHO) after it came under stinging attack from United States (US) leader Donald Trump over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from Ramaphosa’s office late Wednesday said he “reaffirms his appreciation for the exceptional leadership” of 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 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 US, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look.”

Speaking to reporters later on 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 on 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.