Thursday, 16 April 2020

Pretoria: South Africa has expressed concern and alarm at the announcement by the President of the United States of America (USA) to cut funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO) with immediate effect.

“South Africa is particularly alarmed that the decision is made amid a global health crisis that requires a full-capacity World Health Organisation to provide support in combatting the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is alarming that this very regrettable decision is announced as this deadly virus strikes Africa, and the poorest and most vulnerable states,” said the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in a statement on Wednesday.

WHO, as the lead UN Agency, is mandated to promote health and to ensure universal health coverage globally. It is tasked with leading global efforts to suppress the transmission and stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO is the sole global health agency, with the core focus on universal healthcare. As such, South Africa said the agency’s efforts to coordinate a genuine global response against COVID-19 should be recognised and supported.

With Coronavirus cases escalating at a rapid pace by the day, the announcement by the US to cut its funding to WHO is set to have a significantly adverse impact on its programmes, and the world’s ability to fight and eliminate this pandemic.

“This, at a time where now more than ever, the international community has to stand together and work in the spirit of human solidarity and cooperation with one another. We believe that, more than ever before, WHO deserves increased support from member states, in particular to bolster its efforts to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic,” DIRCO said.

South Africa, the department said, is hopeful that the United States government will reconsider its decision and re-join the international community in fighting this pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, WHO said the US decision was regrettable.

“We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organisation.

While COVID-19 has topped the WHO’s focus in recent months, the agency is tasked with addressing diseases such as polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer, diabetes, mental health, among others.

WHO said it will review the impact on its work of any withdrawal of US funding, and will work with its partners to fill any financial gaps it may face to ensure its work continues uninterrupted.

“Our commitment to public health, science and serving all the people of the world without fear or favour remains absolute.” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.