Kagame defends UN health agency after Trump criticism

Thursday April 9 2020

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. PHOTO |

Rwandan President Paul Kagame. PHOTO | URUGWIRO  

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwanda President Paul Kagame has come to the defense of the World Health Organisation (WHO) following heavy criticism and threats to freeze its funding by US President Donald Trump.

President Trump accused the United Nation’s health agency of "missing the call" on the coronavirus pandemic and threatened to suspend funds.

"They called it wrong, they called it wrong. They missed the call. They could have called it months earlier. They would have known, and they should have known and they probably did know. So, we’ll be looking into that very carefully and we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO," Mr Trump said on Tuesday.

The US contributed more than $400 million to WHO in 2019, which is the highest by any other country's contributions.

But as criticism against Mr Trump grew in the US for delayed response to impose measures against the spread of coronavirus in his own country, the President chose to instead scapegoat WHO, arguing that its response to the pandemic was "China-centric".

AFRICA RESPONSE

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President Kagame chimed in while responding to the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, who also defended WHO's director general Tedros Adhanom, an Ethiopian.

"Surprised to learn of a campaign by the US government against WHO’s global leadership. The African Union fully supports WHO and Dr Tedros. The focus should remain on collectively fighting Covid-19 as a united global community. The time for accountability will come," Mr Mahamat tweeted on Wednesday.

To which Mr Kagame responded: "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 should be held accountable will come later and done properly. Save us too much politics Africa does not need it. Who does?"

The US president, however, contradicted himself after being pressed by reporters during a press conference, noting that he would put “a very powerful hold” on WHO's funding, and insisted that a freeze was simply under consideration.

Reports emerged this week that President Trump had earlier ignored his trade advisor's memo in January warning that coronavirus could put millions of Americans at risk and cost trillions of dollars.

The president repeatedly denied responsibility as the death toll exceeded 12,000 in the US, even after he downplayed the pandemic by comparing it to the common flu and ignoring warnings issued by WHO in January.

The WHO declared Covid-19 a public health emergency on January 30, and a month later Mr Trump downplayed the epidemic saying it was "very much under control in the USA”.

Rwanda is among the first African countries to impose a total lockdown, on March 22, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, and has recently extended the lockdown to April 19.

The country has reported 110 coronavirus cases, with seven patients recovering and the rest under stable condition, according to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday.

WHO and the UN children’s agency Unicef on Monday announced a Solidarity Response Fund through which they will work together on the Covid-19 war.

As part of the agreement, an initial portion of the money from the Fund–which stands at more than $127 million–will flow to Unicef for its work with vulnerable children and communities all over the world.

The coronavirus has affected 209 countries and infected some 1.45 million people with over 83,000 dead, and over 300,000 people have recovered.

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