June 25, 2020 / 11:24 AM / 13 days ago

Germany, France shore up political, financial aid to beleaguered WHO

GENEVA, June 25 (Reuters) - France and Germany expressed political and financial backing for the World Health Organization (WHO) in its fight against the coronavirus on Thursday, with Berlin saying it would contribute a record half billion euros in funding this year.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at a news conference in Geneva, said the agency, criticised by the United States for being slow off the mark in tackling the pandemic, was getting the financial and political support it needed.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that the United States was cutting ties with the “China-centric” WHO, but he has still not formally notified the U.N. agency.

The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the 500 million euros ($561 million) was the “highest amount that we have ever donated” to the WHO.

“We need a strong, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever,” he said. “A WHO able to lead and coordinate the global response effort.”

France said it would give 90 million euros to a WHO research centre in Lyon as well as an additional contribution of 50 million euros.

“I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organisation,” French Health Minister Olivier Veran said. “I believe the world cannot get rid of partners. We need a global answer (to COVID-19) and only the WHO can provide that answer.”

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

More than 9.44 million people have been reported to have been infected by the coronavirus globally and 481,672​ have died so far, according to a Reuters tally.

European governments are working with the United States on plans to overhaul the WHO, a top European health official said last week, signalling that Europe shares some of the concerns that led Washington to say it would quit. ($1 = 0.8920 euros) (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Joseph Nasr, Silke Koltrowitz and Matthias Blamont; Writing by Nick Macfie Editing by Gareth Jones)

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