U.N. chief welcomes U.S. re-engagement with WHO

Antonio Guterres said that supporting the health agency is “absolutely critical” to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the United States’ stated re-engagement with the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying supporting the health agency is “absolutely critical” to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said Washington joining the global vaccine initiative will boost efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries.

“Supporting the WHO is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts for a better coordinated response against COVID-19,” a statement issued by the UN Chief’s spokesperson on Wednesday said.

Mr. Guterres said now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop the virus and its shattering consequences.

“With vaccines being a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19, the United States joining and supporting the COVAX facility will give momentum to efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries,” the statement said.

Angry at the WHO for its handling of the coronavirus, which he had termed “China virus” due to its origin in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Mr. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had halted funding to the global health agency last year.

His administration had also formally notified the United Nations of its decision to withdraw the U.S. from the WHO.

The U.S. has been the largest funder to the WHO, contributing more than $450 million per annum. The U.S. has been a party to the WHO Constitution since June 21, 1948.

As the world reached a “heart-wrenching milestone” of two million COVID-19-related deaths less than a week ago, Mr. Guterres lamented that the deadly impact of the pandemic has worsened due to the absence of a global coordinated effort and said that “vaccinationalism” by governments is “self-defeating” that will delay a global recovery.

Mr. Guterres has said the U.N. is supporting countries to mobilise the largest global immunisation effort in history and the world organisation is committed to making sure that vaccines are seen as global public goods — people’s vaccines.

“That requires full funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX facility – which is dedicated to making vaccines available and affordable to all,” Mr. Guterres had said.

He stressed that manufacturers need to step up their commitment to work with the COVAX facility and countries around the world to ensure enough supply and fair distribution.

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