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Guterres urges world to ‘work together in solidarity’ as US moves to re-join WHO

January 21, 2021
The flag of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) flies at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. — Courtesy photo
The flag of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) flies at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. — Courtesy photo

NEW YORK — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday welcomed the announcement by President Joe Biden that the United States will re-engage with the World Health Organization (WHO) and continue to be a full participant in advancing global health and health security.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the UN secretary-general said that supporting the UN health agency “is absolutely critical” to the world’s effort for a better-coordinated response against COVID-19.

The UN chief also urged global solidarity to defeat the coronavirus.

“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” the statement added.

Earlier in the day, in one of his first acts as the new US President, Biden signed an executive order to stop the country’s departure from WHO, reversing the July 2020 decision by former President Donald Trump. Trump’s decision would have taken effect in July 2021, as the formal withdrawal requires a one-year notice.

Trump had also halted funding for WHO in April last year, prompting global concerns for the UN’s health agency’s work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The US is the largest donors to the agency, contributing almost $893 million for its programs in 2018-2019.

Alongside, the new administration announced the US’ participation in the COVAX facility, a global effort co-led by WHO that aims to provide low-income nations with COVID-19 vaccines.

Mr. Guterres hailed the step, stressing “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 vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator), COVAX is a global mechanism that aims to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of their wealth.

Also on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the US President announced that infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci will lead the country’s delegation to the ongoing WHO Executive Board meeting, participating remotely.

The Biden administration also announced a series of actions to combat coronavirus, including requiring the use of facemasks in all federal buildings, lands, and on certain modes of public transport. — UN news


January 21, 2021
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