Apr 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top U.S. WHO official defends group amid Trump administration attacks

Maria Van Kerkhove. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Maria Van Kerkhove. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

A top American World Health Organization official argued in an interview with TIME that the agency has acted sufficiently throughout the coronavirus pandemic — despite the Trump administration's criticisms.

Why it matters: President Trump announced last week the U.S. would halt funding to the World Health Organization, which he blames for amplifying the pandemic's intensity. He said the group was not aggressive enough in tackling the virus early on — specifically in managing information coming out of China.

  • Trump said the WHO "failed to investigate credible reports … that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts."

WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, American infectious-disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, told TIME: "We don’t blindly accept data as-is. Things are reported to us, and then we scrutinize and ask and kick the tires. We always ask for more. That’s not unique to the situation and that’s not unique to China."

  • And Van Kerkhove noted that within the WHO, operations are more nuanced than "what is done publicly or what is done through Twitter."

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