"Please quarantine politicizing COVID. If we want to win, we shouldn't waste time pointing fingers...Unity is the only option to defeat this virus," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
"I will suggest two things to the world," he told a virtual press conference from Geneva when answering a question about U.S. President Donald Trump's threat to withhold funds for the UN agency. "The first is national unity, and the second is global solidarity."
Trump on Tuesday criticized the WHO's response to COVID-19 and threatened to freeze U.S. funding for it.
Tedros stressed that at the national level, leaders should work across party lines.
"My message to political parties: do not politicize this virus. If you care for your people, work across party lines and ideologies ... Without unity, we assure you, even any country that may have a better system will be in trouble, and more crises," Tedros noted.
"No need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourselves. This is not the one to use for politics, it's like playing with fire," Tedros added.
"Now, the United States and China, all the rest of G20 and the rest of the world should come together to fight the virus," he said, adding that the virus succeeds when there are cracks at the national level and global level.
Earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for supporting the WHO during the COVID-19 crisis in the face of Trump's threat.
The WHO, with thousands of its staff, is on the frontlines, supporting member states and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, Guterres said in a statement. "It is my belief that the WHO must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against COVID-19."
Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences, rather than for evaluating the performance of all involved, he said.
The situation on the ground seems to support Guterres' appeal for support for the WHO.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has risen to more than 10,000 with more than 500 recorded deaths, as infections on the continent have grown exponentially in recent weeks and are continuing to spread, according to the WHO.
Africa's first COVID-19 case was recorded in Egypt on Feb. 14 and since then the number of African countries reporting cases has risen to 52 out of a total of 54.
The WHO said communities need to be empowered, and provincial and district levels of government need to ensure they have the resources and expertise to respond to the outbreaks locally.
The UN agency is working with governments across Africa to scale up their capacities in critical response areas such as coordination, surveillance, isolation, case management and contact tracing, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement.
For instance, the United Nations is supporting the Nigerian government in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Three ambulances were donated Wednesday to the populous Lagos State. Other essential preventive, testing and treatment equipment procured by the United Nations is expected to arrive in the country in the coming days, said Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for the secretary-general.
In Venezuela, the first shipment of 90 tons of UN life-saving supplies, including 28,000 personal protective equipment kits for health workers on the frontline as well as oxygen concentrators, pediatric beds, water quality control products and hygiene kits, was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday to support the COVID-19 response, said Peter Grohmann, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the country.
In a televised speech on Monday, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez also expressed support to the WHO, saying that the UN-body sent out warnings at an early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak and made specific plans to contain the virus.
Washington should not pass the blame to the WTO for its own failure in managing the COVID-19 situation, she added.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Spain has also delivered the first batch of medical supplies to health authorities to support the fight against the pandemic, Dujarric said.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said Tuesday COVID-19 is generating an unprecedented global economic crisis, with the economic destruction cruelly and unequally distributed.
For the world's poorest countries, the financial fallout caused by the pandemic, combined with debilitating debt-service obligations, is hampering their ability to prevent further transmission and protect citizens, she said.
A report of the International Labour Organization said the pandemic is expected to wipe out 6.7 percent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.