WHO Chief: 'How Is It Difficult to Unite to Fight a Common Enemy That's Killing People Indiscriminately?'

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for leaders across the world to "unite to fight a common enemy that's killing people indiscriminately."

In opening remarks to a Member States mission briefing on Thursday in Geneva, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "My friends make no mistake the greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, rather it's the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels."

Tedros said: "Each and every individual should reflect. This is a tragedy that actually is forcing us to miss many of our friends, losing many lives, and we cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world. The COVID-19 pandemic is a test of global solidarity and global leadership. The virus thrives on division but is thwarted when we unite.

"How is it difficult for humans to unite to fight a common enemy that's killing people indiscriminately? Are we unable to distinguish or identify the common enemy? Can't we understand that the divisions or the cracks between us actually are the advantage for the virus?"

Tedros went on: "The only way forward is together. It's the basics," adding: "Together is the solution. Unless we want to give the advantage to the enemy. To the virus. That has taken the world hostage. And this has to stop."

The WHO chief's remarks could be viewed as a thinly veiled response to the Trump administration starting the formal process to withdraw from the U.N. health agency. The withdrawal notice is effective as of July 6, 2021.

In May, President Donald Trump sent a letter to Tedros stating that he was considering permanently freezing funding to the body. Among his criticisms were the WHO's relationship with China. Trump later announced he would end the U.S.'s relationship with the WHO, citing a failure to "make the requested and greatly needed reforms."

As the Statista graph below shows, the U.S. is the biggest contributor to the WHO.

Statista WHO contributions
The eight largest contributors to the World Health Organization as of June 30 this year. Statista

The situation comes as states across the U.S. are hit by surges inCOVID-19 cases and the country continues to lead the world in the number of cases and deaths. Experts have told Newsweek they expect the number of deaths to climb in the coming weeks.

Over 12 million COVID-19 cases have so far been confirmed worldwide, and almost 550,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 132,000 people have died in the U.S. in more than 3 million cases.

At the briefing which was broadcast on social media, Tedros announced the WHO was establishing an independent panel to review the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by itself and governments. It will be lead by Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Tedros said: "This is not a standard report that ticks a box and is then put on a shelf to gather dust. This is something we take seriously."

The WHO chief also said the COVID-19 pandemic has left no country untouched. He said diseases know no borders, and don't care about political differences, and disregard distinctions between health, economics, lives and livelihoods. On Thursday, Tedros also said the COVID-19 pandemic has left no country untouched. He said diseases know no borders, and don't care about political differences, and disregard distinctions between health, economics, lives and livelihoods.

Tedros said the virus is not under control in most parts of the world, and the pandemic is "getting worse" and "accelerating." In the last six weeks, the total number of cases has doubled, he said.

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images