COVID-19: Bill Gates attacks Donald Trump's 'dangerous' suspension of WHO funding

Bill Gates has condemned Donald Trump's decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organization, saying it is "as dangerous as it sounds".

The billionaire Microsoft founder tweeted that the world needs the health body more than ever.

Trump's controversial decision, which he said was made over the WHO's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has drawn condemnation from infectious diseases experts.

It comes as the global death toll from the virus continues to mount – nearly 2 million people globally have been infected and more than 124,000 have died since it emerged in China late last year, according to a Reuters tally.

Trump's attack

The US president, who has reacted angrily to criticism of his administration's response to the worst epidemic in a century, has become increasingly hostile towards the WHO.

He said the Geneva-based body had promoted Chinese "disinformation" that led to a wider outbreak than otherwise would have occurred.

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"The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable," he said on Tuesday.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said it was not the time to reduce resources for the WHO.

"Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences," he said in a statement.

The US is the WHO's biggest overall donor, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of the organisation's budget.

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Inside the marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates
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Inside the marriage of Bill and Melinda Gates

At the picnic, Melinda gave Bill her number and told him to call her closer to the day he had in mind.

Source: Business Insider

(JEFF CHRISTENSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Instead, he called her up later that night with a wry question: "Is this spontaneous enough for you?" Turns out, it was.

Source: Business Insider

(Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Melinda and Bill dated for seven years before they wed. Melinda told Fortune her mom didn't think that seeing the CEO was a good idea in the beginning.

Source: Business InsiderFortune

(Photo by Manny Ceneta/Getty Images)

But the couple didn't listen. Business Insider's Tanza Loudenback reported they "kept a low profile at work and asked colleagues and family members to respect their privacy."

Source: Business InsiderSeattle TimesBusiness Insider


(Photo by Victor Malafronte/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"When I look back, Bill was the same kind of guy I was hanging out with in college," Melinda told Fortune. "I had a lot of respect for them, and they had respect for me."

Source: Business InsiderFortune

(Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"I was definitely attracted to his brilliant mind, but beyond that, his curiosity," she told Fortune. "And he has a huge sense of fun. I love that wry side of him."

Source: Business InsiderFortune

(REUTERS/Kamil Zihnioglu/Pool)

After they were engaged, Bill and Melinda traveled to Africa in late 1993. During the trip, they encountered people in extreme poverty. On a walk on a beach in Zanzibar, Melinda told TED in an interview, the couple "started to talk about" how they might use their fortune to help others.
 

(REUTERS/Jeff Christensen)

The couple married in 1994 in what was then Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii. They tied the knot by the "par-3 12th hole" on the property's golf course, according to Forbes. The event reportedly cost $1 million.

 Source: Business InsiderEasyWeddings.comForbesPeople magazineBusiness Insider

(Carini Joe via Getty Images)

To keep the wedding private, Bill booked all the rooms in the hotel, along with all of the helicopters on the island of Maui to "prevent unwanted visitors from flying over," Forbes reported.

Source: Business InsiderEasyWeddings.comForbes

(Photo credit should read Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

The next year, the couple's lavish home — nicknamed "Xanadu 2.0" — was completed in Medina, Washington. The mansion's estimated worth was $124 million in 2016.

Source: Business InsiderThe Economic Times

(Photo by Dan Callister/Newsmakers)

The couple has raised two daughters and a son — and didn't let any of them own a cellphone until they were 14, according to The Mirror.

Source: Business InsiderBusiness InsiderThe Mirror

(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Bill told Rolling Stone the children were raised Catholic. "We've raised our kids in a religious way," he said. "They've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in."

Source: Rolling Stone

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/GC Images)

Bill and Melinda would read books from a range of genres to their kids as they grew up, from "Guess How Much I Love You" to "Fahrenheit 451."

Source: Business Insider

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

Each of the Gates' kids will inherit about $10 million of their parents' $89.6 billion fortune, while much of the rest will go to charitable causes. "We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing," Bill told TED.

Source: Business InsiderTEDBankrate.com

 (Photo by Frederic Stevens/Getty Images)

Melinda has said her relationship with her husband has changed over time. "We've had to change to really be coequals," she said. "It's not something that immediately happens overnight, but we're both committed to it."

Source: Business InsiderFortune

(REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski)

Warren Buffett, who is close with the Gates, told Fortune that Bill was "smart as hell, obviously," but that "in terms of seeing the whole picture," Melinda was smarter.

Source: FortuneBusiness Insider

(Photo by Adam Rountree/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bill has said he and Melinda work as partners at the foundation. They both received Presidential Medals of Freedom in 2016 from President Barack Obama for their efforts.

Source: Business InsiderThe White House

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

"Melinda and I believe that everyone deserves the chance for a healthy and productive life — and so with the help of our amazing partners, we are working to find innovative ways to help people in need all over the world," Bill wrote during one of his Reddit AMAs.

Source: Reddit

(Photo by fotopress/Getty Images)

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Reaction

China has responded by urging the US to fulfil its obligations to the WHO. Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pandemic was at a critical stage and that Trump's decision would affect all countries of the world.

Germany described funding of the body as one of the best investments possible. Heiko Mass, the nation's foreign minister, said on Wednesday that the "virus knows no borders".

"Apportioning blame doesn't help. The virus knows no borders," he said on Twitter. "We have to work closely together against #COVID19. One of the best investments is to strengthen the @UN, especially the under-funded @WHO, for example for developing and distributing tests and vaccines."

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said he sympathised with Trump's criticisms of the WHO, especially its "unfathomable" support of reopening China's "wet markets," where freshly slaughtered, and live, animals are sold.

The coronavirus is believed to have emerged from such a market in the city of Wuhan late last year.

"But that said, the WHO also as an organisation does a lot of important work including here in our region in the Pacific and we work closely with them," Morrison said.

"We are not going to throw the baby out of with the bathwater here, but they are also not immune from criticism."

Gates to fund vaccine research

Bill Gates has been vocal throughout the pandemic in calling for collaboration to beat the virus. (AP)

Gates has been vocal throughout the pandemic in calling for collaboration to beat the virus.

Earlier this month, he said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would fund seven factories to help develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.

He said the foundation would help select the most promising seven potential vaccines.

"Even though we'll end up picking at most two of them, we're going to fund factories for all seven just so we don't waste time in serially saying "ok which vaccine works" and then building the factory," Gates told The Daily Show on 3 April.

"It'll be a few billion dollars we'll waste on manufacturing for the constructs that don't get picked because something else is better. But a few billion in this situation we're in, where there's trillions of dollars... being lost economically, it is worth it,"

Gates and his wife Melinda have already pledged $100 million toward fighting the pandemic.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo
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