GENEVA – Germany on Thursday announced that it is giving half a billion euros to support the World Health Organization amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but said reforms are necessary to make the agency more transparent and accountable.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, said the country remains a “critical friend” of the World Health Organization.
Speaking at a meeting of some member states at WHO headquarters in Geneva on Thursday, Spahn said Germany would do its part to give WHO the political, financial and technical backing it required.
He said most of the more than 500 million euros was for the agency's plan to stop the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the money — 110 million euros — had been announced previously.
“This comes with the clear expectation that remaining challenges are adequately addressed and needed reforms are pushed forward,” Spahn said.
Last month, WHO bowed to member countries' request for an independent probe of how it managed the global response to coronavirus.
“We need a strong, efficient, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever,” Spahn said. He added it is critical to have “decision-making processes driven by the facts, and not by politics.”
In recent weeks, WHO has come under siege from U.S. President Donald Trump and others, who have blasted its performance during COVID-19 and accused the agency of colluding with China to hide the extent of the outbreak when the virus first emerged. Trump had previously declared he was suspending U.S. funding to WHO and pulling his country out; it provides about $450 million a year as the agency's single biggest donor.
An Associated Press investigation found China delayed sharing critical information with WHO for weeks and that the agency publicly praised China while voicing internal frustrations at Chinese officials' lack of cooperation.
In addition to the cash, Spahn said Germany would also be providing medical equipment including masks for countries struggling to deal with the pandemic.
“This is a clear sign for our dedication to the work of WHO,” Spahn said, warning that "isolated national answers to international problems are doomed to fail.”
French health minister Olivier Veran said France has previously announced it would give WHO 90 million euros to build an academy in Lyon, in addition to another 50 million announced by President Emmanuel Macron. He also said France would be providing 100 million masks.
“The French contribution is not aimed to replace the U.S. contribution. The French contribution is there to remind the World Health Organization that it can count on the friendship of the European Union," Veran said.
Spahn said it was unclear how Trump's announcement of suspended American funding would affect WHO.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Germany and France for their support, saying “we are getting all the support we need, political and financial.”
Both Spahn and Veran said they were committed to making a COVID-19 vaccine accessible to all people who need it, but did not specify how that might be done.
Cheng reported from London.