ADDIS ABEBA – The chief of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom of Ethiopia, said he had faced death threats and racist insults over the UN health agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than three months. Abuses or racist comments, giving me names, black or… even death threats. I do not give a damn,” he told reporters at a media briefing on Wednesday.
Dr. Tedros urged the global community to “quarantine COVID politics” and stop wasting time pointing fingers at one another.
“That is what we want. We do not care about personal attacks. We care about the life passing every single minute unnecessarily because we could not unite and fight this virus”, Tedros said.
Asked to comment on U.S. President Donald Trump, who accused the agency on Tuesday for being “China-centric”, Tedros said that WHO was close to every nation and was “color-blind” as well as “wealth-blind”.
“For us small and big is the same. For us people in the North or in the South, East or West are the same”, he said, adding the media should advocate for unity in the fight against the virus, instead of fanning the flames of discord.
Heads of several African countries have called the WHO and its head Dr. Tedros “exceptional” after they were criticized by Trump.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said the leadership ”displayed daily by WHO & Dr. Tedros during an unprecedented global public health crisis is incalculable”.
He twitted saying he was surprised “to learn of a campaign by the US govt against WHO’s global leadership” and African Union fully supports both.
On Wednesday, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat had defended the WHO chief, a position that was backed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Namibia’s President Hage Geingob.