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South Africa’s Ramaphosa defends WHO after Trump virus lashing


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his support behind the WHO after it came under stinging attack from 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 World Health Organisation 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.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to withhold US funding to the WHO, of which the United States is the largest founder.

Trump accused the WHO of having “called it wrong” and months too late, while taking US money but favouring China.

READ ALSO: Fact Check: Trump falsely claims drug approval for virus

“The WHO really blew it,” Trump wrote on Twitter

“For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look.”

Speaking to reporters later 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 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.

The new coronavirus, which first appeared in China in December, has gone on to kill more than 87,000 people, while more than 1.5 million people been infected across 192 countries.

The chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted on Wednesday that he was “surprised to learn of a campaign by the US govt against WHO’s global leadership”.

Tedros on Wednesday also retweeted personal support he had received from the presidents of Nigeria and Rwanda.


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