Fox News attacks Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, first African to lead WHO amid COVID-19 pandemic, accuses him of joining a terrorist organization in Ethiopia

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Fox News, an American conservative cable television news channel owned by the Fox News Group, which itself is owned by Fox Corporation, unleashed an unprovoked, unwarranted and ill-timed attack on Friday against Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization at a time he is leading a global effort to defeat COVID-19 pandemic.

  

The conservative television station, loved by President Donald Trump and white America, accused Dr. Ghebreyesus of supporting a terrorist organization, covering up cholera epidemics and ‘inflating’ his resume to claim ‘he conquered malaria and HIV’.

“Tedros Adhanom Ghegreyesus’ campaign to rewrite his questionable past has some wondering whether he is the right fit to lead the global agency through the coronavirus pandemic,” the network wrote.

It quoted foreign affairs ‘expert’ Gordon Chang as saying “Tedros is the second-to-last person who should be heading the world World Health Organization at this time.” “The last person is (Chinese President) Xi Jinping.”

Apart from all the ‘terrible crimes’ listed above, Fox News said the Ethiopian official, who was elected to lead the WHO in 2017, “has been accused of cozying up to countries like China that have pledged millions of dollars to the agency.”

“Last week, Tedros applauded Xi for his efforts to contain and control the novel coronavirus that is widely thought to have originated in a Wuhan, China seafood market,” the network wrote.

It recalled that his rise to power hasn’t been an easy one. He landed his current job after three rounds of secret-ballot voting where he knocked out Dr. Sania Nishtar, of Pakistan, and Dr. David Nabarro, of Britain.”

Fox News went decades back to recall that “Tedros was accused of covering up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia when he was health minister” although he denied the allegations and described them as last-minute smear campaign against him.

Fox News also claimed that Dr. Ghebreyesus simply known as Tedros “became a member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which began a protracted rebellion against the military government and was crucial in the 1991 overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam, Ethiopia’s Marxist dictator. The victory resulted in swapping out a Amhara-dominated government with one led by Tigray leaders, which led to more than a decade of conflict”.

The report by Fox News quoted journalist Abebe Gellaw as writing in the Ethiopian Registrar. that “Tedros was one of the top three members of the TPLF and that the party is “ultimately responsible for all the corruption, killings, torture, mass detention, land grab or displacement.”

It added that tUnited States State Department has categorized TPLF as a terrorist organization due to its “violent activities before it became part of the ruling coalition and the government of Ethiopia in May 1991.”

The conservative network again quoted journalist Gellaw as accusing Tedros of using a U.S.-based lobbying firm to inflate his resume.

“He is hyping up his dubious successes: conquered malaria, destroyed HIV, reduced infant mortality, built thousands and thousands of clinics,” Fox News quoted Gellaw as writing, adding, “They never talk about the reality behind those exaggerated figures.”

The piece by Fox News, filled with ‘accusations’ that have been denied by Tedros, came at a time the WHO boss has been warning that using medications that have not been proven to work as President Trump has been encouraging in the case of chloroquine could do more evil that good.

Tedros has also spoken forcefully against the attempt by some conservatives in the United States, especially President Donald Trump to label the coronavirus “the Chinese virus”.

It also came at a time when the death toll from the coronavirus was climbing in the United States raising fears that Americans may blame the person and party in power in an election year and punish them at the polls by election a Democratic president.

The story could not have come at a worse time. Tedros and his colleagues at the WHO are leading efforts to combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 25,000 people have died already and close to 600,000 others have been infected. The good news was close to 130,000 worldwide have recovered.

Attacking the WHO boss at this crucial time is not only unnecessary, it is also counter productive as efforts intensify worldwide to find a vaccine and defeat the invisible enemy claiming more lives every day.

As Fox News was releasing their report in the United States, in Geneva, Dr. Ghebreyesus was calling for more solidarity to combat the pandemic at his three-time a week press conference on the coronavirus pandemic.

He also used his platform to warn against using “therapeutics that have not been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19”.

“We call on individuals and countries to refrain from using therapeutics that have not been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19. The history of medicine is strewn with examples of drugs that worked on paper, or in a test tube, but didn’t work in humans or were actually harmful.

“During the most recent Ebola epidemic, for example, some medicines that were thought to be effective were found not to be as effective as other medicines when they were compared during a clinical trial.

“We must follow the evidence. There are no short-cuts,” he said.

Hours later in Washington D.C., President Trump again spoke in favor of chloroquine, which has not been proven to treat COVID-19.

You can read Dr. Ghebreyesus’ full remarks below

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, wherever you are.

There are now more than half a million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 20,000 deaths.

These are tragic numbers, but let’s also remember that around the world, more than 100,000 people have recovered.

Yesterday, I had the honour of addressing an extraordinary meeting of leaders from the G20 countries.

My message was threefold: we must fight, unite and ignite.

Fight to stop the virus with every resource at our disposal;

Unite to confront the pandemic together. We are one humanity, with one, common enemy. No country can fight alone; we can only fight together.

And ignite the industrial might and innovation of the G20 to produce and distribute the tools needed to save lives.

We must also make a promise to future generations, saying never again.

Viral outbreaks are a fact of life. How much damage they do is something we can influence.

I thank the G20 countries for their commitment to fight the pandemic, safeguard the global economy, address international trade disruptions and enhance global cooperation.

This is especially important for countries who are not part of the G20 but will be affected by decisions made by G20 countries.

Earlier today, we held a briefing with around 50 Ministers of Health from around the world at which China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore shared their experiences and the lessons they have learned.

Several common themes emerged about what has worked:

The need for early detection and isolation of confirmed cases;

Identification, follow-up and quarantine of contacts;

The need to optimize care;

And the need to communicate to build trust and engage communities in the fight.

Countries also expressed several common challenges.

The chronic global shortage of personal protective equipment is now one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives. 

WHO has shipped almost 2 million individual items of protective gear to 74 countries that need it most, and we’re preparing to send a similar amount to a further 60 countries.

But much more is needed.

This problem can only be solved with international cooperation and international solidarity.

When health workers are at risk, we’re all at risk.

Health workers in low- and middle-income countries deserve the same protection as those in the wealthiest countries.

To support our call on all countries to conduct aggressive case-finding and testing, we’re also working urgently to massively increase the production and capacity for testing around the world.

One of the most important areas of international cooperation is research and development.

A vaccine is still at least 12 to 18 months away.

In the meantime, we recognize that there is an urgent need for therapeutics to treat patients and save lives.

Today we are delighted to announce that in Norway and Spain, the first patients will shortly be enrolled in the Solidarity Trial, which will compare the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against COVID-19.

This is a historic trial which will dramatically cut the time needed to generate robust evidence about what drugs work.

More than 45 countries are contributing to the trial, and more have expressed interest. The more countries who join the trial, the faster we will have results.

We also need to ensure that using unproven drugs does not create a shortage of those medicines to treat diseases for which they have proven effective.

As the pandemic evolves and more countries are affected, we are learning more and more lessons about what works and what doesn’t.

WHO is continuing to support all countries in the response.

We’ve published more than 40 guidance documents on our website, providing detailed, evidence-based recommendations for governments, hospitals, health workers, members of the public and more. 

More than 1 million health workers have been trained through our courses on OpenWHO.org. We will continue to train more.

We’re also delighted to report that the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund has now received donations of more than US$ 108 million in just two weeks, from 203,000 individuals and organizations.

Thank you to each and every one of you.

The English version of our WhatsApp Health Alert now has more than 12 million users globally, and the Arabic, French and Spanish versions were launched today. More languages will be added, including Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Kurdish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Urdu, Swahili and more.

I’ve said before that crises like this bring out the best and worst in humanity.

We have recently seen an increase in scams, cyberattacks and impersonation using WHO, my name and COVID-19.

I am very grateful to those working in various national organizations providing critical cybersecurity intelligence to the WHO Cybersecurity team.

Thank you for your efforts to work with us to protect the health systems, health workers and members of the general public who rely on our information systems and digital tools. Special thanks to Microsoft for assisting on this.

I’d like to end with something Singapore’s Minister of Health, Gan Kim Yong, said during today’s briefing.

We are only at the beginning of this fight.

We need to stay calm, stay united and work together.

I thank you.

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