Africa defends WHO and its head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus amid attacks by Trump

African leaders are defending the World Health Organization (WHO) and its head Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus amid attacks by U.S. President Donald Trump

“Surprised to learn of a campaign by the US govt against @WHO’s global leadership. The @_AfricanUnion fully supports @WHO and @DrTedros. The focus should remain on collectively fighting #Covid19 as a united global community. The time for accountability will come,” tweeted the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame followed with his own tweet, defending WHO and its Director General against attacks by Trump.

“Totally Agree ,and asking this; Is it Dr.Tedros,WHO,China…under attack or all of them together? Let’s focus on the fight against this pandemic,whoever sh’d be held acc’ntable will come later and done properly. Save us too much politics Africa does not need it. Who does?” he asked in response to Mahamat’s tweet.

Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the WHO was “very China-centric” while it was being “largely” funded by the United States. President Trump warned that he could cut funding to WHO.

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob also supported Dr Tedros, the first African to head WHO, calling him a “true flag bearer of multi-lateralism when global solidarity has become critical”.

Donald Trump, the former entertainer turned politician and then President of the most powerful country on earth, attempted again on Tuesday to blame the World Health Organization (WHO) for his own massive failures and boasts at home as the death toll from the coronavirus under his leadership skyrocketed above 13,000.

At a White House press briefing and in an interview with Fox News’ “Hannity, President Trump claimed the WHO had “strongly recommended” against America restricting travel from China. He added that the WHO “probably” knew about the dangers of the novel coronavirus pandemic months before the agency sounded the alarm.

But the facts are..

The WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern on January 30. The declaration came 10 days after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case in the U.S. and 11 days after South Korea announced its first case.

Chinese officials had told the WHO’s China office about cases of COVID-19 on December 31 and as cases continued to increase, the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, after 114 countries had reported cases.

Health officials say a pandemic is declared when it has become clear a particular disease or virus, with no cure or vaccine, is likely to spread all over the world, which the coronavirus had become at that time.

For lovers of sports, a pandemic is like the World Cup of diseases.

But at a press briefing on Tuesday Trump accused the WHO of reportedly calling the pandemic wrong at the beginning.

He said: “They called it wrong. They really, they missed the call. They could’ve called it months earlier, they would’ve known. And they should’ve known. And they probably did know. So we’ll be looking into that very carefully”

Trump initially said that the U.S. would “put a very powerful hold” on WHO funding for reportedly cautioning against imposing travel restrictions like he did for China in early February.

Trump later denied he said the U.S. would hold funds to the WHO. “No I didn’t, I said we’re going to look at it, we’re going to investigate it, we’re going to look at it,” he said. “But we will look at ending funding.”

Trump had earlier in the day attacked WHO in a tweet, just a day after its black Director General, Ethiopian Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned extremely racist comments made by two French doctors.

“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?” Mr. Trump said in an attempt to blame WHO for his own failures at home.

The New York Times reported on Monday how Mr. Trump ignored warnings from his top senior official as far back as January, warning that there could be a full blown coronavirus pandemic in the United States should nothing be done.

“The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States,” The New York Times said.

“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Mr. Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

That was exactly what happened. In massive rallies, President Trump, the former entertainer turned politician, described the coronavirus as a hoax, downplayed it many times and encouraged people to go about their daily lives, claiming repeatedly the government had the virus under control.

Mr. Trump was making these comments even as his own scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were warning that valuable time was being wasted.

By the time the American President finally woke up, two months had been wasted and the virus had already taken root in the United States.

Right Now:

Close to 13000 people have been killed by COVID-19 in the United States and the number of cases continues to escalate by the day and is approaching 400,000, according to latest data.

Billions of dollars have been lost and the country is now in recession. Many are warning that the impact of the coronavirus could be more severe than the great depression.

But Mr. Trump’s condemnation on Tuesday came a day the Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday condemned racist remarks by two French scientists that the coronavirus vaccine should first be tested on a bunch of Africans to know if it works before it is tested on all other human beings in the world.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied that he was neither a racist nor a a supporter of white nationalism but his actions and words of trying to denigrate Africa, black and brown people seem suggest otherwise.

The racist comments by the French doctors were made on the French television channel, LCI, during a discussion last Wednesday about COVID-19 trials set to be launched in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.

“It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?” said Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris.

Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed: “You are right. And by the way, we are thinking of in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”

The backlash was almost immediate, first on the social media, and elsewhere.

Ivorian professional football player Didier Drogba warned on Twitter that “Africa isn’t a testing lab”. “I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words,” added Drogba who used to play for Chelsea.

Olivier Faure, of France’s Socialist Party, said the remarks were hardly a provocation. “It’s not provocation, it’s just racism,” he wrote on Twitter. “Africa is not the laboratory of Europe. Africans are not rats!”

The anti-racism group SOS Racisme called on France’s media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel (CSA), to formally condemn the remarks.

On Monday, a Nigerian journalist asked WHO officials to comment during a press briefing from Geneva.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the comments as “appalling”. He said they were racist and WHO was condemning them.

“I was so appalled. It was a time when I said, when we needed solidarity, these types of racist remarks actually will not help. It goes against the solidarity.

“Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine. We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutic all over the world using exactly the same rules whether it is in Europe, Africa or wherever, we will use the same protocol

“We will treat human beings the same way, equally.

“The hangover from colonial mentality has to stop and WHO will not allow this to happen.

“And it was a disgrace actually, and appalling to hear during the 21st century from scientists that kind of remarks.

“And we condemn this with the strongest terms possible,” the WHO boss said.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: [email protected]

2 COMMENTS

  1. Good news is that many African nations are finally forming a United front against US and European dominance.
    But let us not forget the actions that WHO leadership has allowed those Europeans to be used upon African peoples.
    That WHO has no independent power, it daily operations and salarys areprimarily from Europe and US funding, and ability to be a part off and especially attain leadership within WHO is more a political affiliation not ones of abilities in health specialties.

  2. The point is to win the battle. However, through application of do not harm principle. Hope, Trump should read the do not harm principle. RESPECT FOR ALL HUMAN BEING.

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