France and Germany have expressed political and financial backing for the World Health Organization (WHO) in its fight against the coronavirus, with Berlin saying it would contribute a record 500 million euros ($561m) in funding this year.
The announcement was made at a news conference in Geneva on Thursday by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, Germany’s Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn and his French counterpart Olivier Veran.
Spahn said $561m 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 ($100m) to a WHO research centre in Lyon as well as an additional contribution of 50 million euros ($56m).
“I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organisation,” 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.”
Thursday’s development follows US President Donald Trump’s criticism of the WHO, accusing the UN agency last month of being “China-centric” and announcing that he planned to cut ties with it over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The WHO has yet to be formally notified of the US funding cut.
The US is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400m in 2019, about 15 percent of its budget.
Infections have been reported in more than 188 countries and territories since the first coronavirus 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, more than 4.7 million have recovered, and more than 482,000 have died so far, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US.