Dnald Trump has argued that China has withheld information about the novel coronavirus outbreak, and attacked the World Health Organisation by calling it “China’s puppet”, while by contrast praising how “boldly” former WHO boss Gro Harlmen Brundtland handled the SARS outbreak in 2003 during her tenure.
In an open letter, US President Donald Trump has argued the current WHO boss should have done as Gro Harlem Brundtland, one of his predecessors, did when she headed the organisation two decades ago. However, Brundtland herself has distanced herself from his statements and cautioned against criticism of the WHO.
In a “self-explanatory” letter to current WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, Trump referenced the example of how Dr. Brundtland handled the SARS outbreak in 2003 during her tenure, praising her “boldness”.
“Just a few years ago, under the leadership of a different Director General, the WHO showed the world what it could offer. In 2003, in response to the outbreak of SARS in China, Gro Harlem Brundtland boldly declared the WHO’s first crisis travel advisory in 55 years, recommending against travel to and from the disease epicentre in southern China. She also did not hesitate to criticise China for threatening global health by attempting to cover up the outbreak through its usual playbook of arresting whistleblowers and censoring media. Many lives could be saved if you followed Dr. Brundtland’s example”, Trump wrote.
However, Gro Harlem Brundtland was not thrilled about Trump’s reference, instead calling on political leaders to rally around the WHO.
“The last thing we need now is to attack the WHO. This means weakening our very central common global institution,” Brundtland said, as quoted by national broadcaster NRK. “The WHO has both the necessary experience and authorisation to oversee and share information and at the same time assist all countries to overcome the ongoing corona crisis.”
Brundtland stressed that the organisation is essential when it comes to preventing crises like the one the world is currently facing.
“The WHO makes us all better prepared to face the challenges facing a globalised world,” she said.
Trump also threatened to permanently freeze support for the WHO unless the organisation makes “significant improvements” within 30 days and even reconsider US membership in the organisation.
Trump suspended the US contribution to the WHO on 14 April, accusing the organisation of taking the epidemic too lightly at its outset and of helping China hide the danger and the spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in the city of Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei.
Trump emphasised that the US pays about $450 million annually to the WHO, more than any other country, and threatened to cut this contribution because the US, he claimed, hasn’t been “treated properly”.
The US is the WHO’s single largest contributor, accounting for about 15 percent of the WHO’s budget.
Trump stressed that China only paid one-tenth of what the US contributes.
“They are a puppet of China, they are China-centric to put it nicer,” Trump said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry ventured that Trump was trying to shift the blame to the Chinese for his own inability to deal with the pandemic in the US, and stressed that the country’s contribution was fully in line with the current regulations.
Gro Harlem Brundtland is a Norwegian Labour politician, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway (1981, 1986-89, and 1990-96) and later went on to become Director General of the World Health Organisation from 1998 to 2003. She is also known for having chaired the Brundtland Commission which presented the Brundtland Report on sustainable development.