Guterres hails Biden, as US moves to re-join WHO

Adeze Ojukwu

United Nations(UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres has welcomed the announcement by President Joe Biden that the United States(US) will re-engage with the World Health Organization (WHO).

The new president also promised to play a full role in advancing global health and health security.

A statement issued by his Spokesperson, on Wednesday, Guterres said ‘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 new US President, Biden signed an executive order to stop the country’s departure from WHO, reversing the formal July 2020 decision by former president Donald Trump. The decision would have taken effect this July, as the formal withdrawal requires a year’s notice.

Mr. Trump had also halted funding for WHO in April last year, prompting global concern over the UN’s health agency’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Alongside, the new administration announced US’s 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 that ‘with vaccines being a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19, the US 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 equitable access for all, regardless of ability to pay.

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.

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