The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday said he has received death threats and racist insults in the course of leading the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the CNBC, the Ethiopian microbiologist said: “I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than two, three months.”
He reportedly told reporters during a conference call from the organisation’s Geneva headquarters about “abuses, racist comments and (those) giving him names, (like) black or Negro.”
“I’m proud of being black, proud of being Negro,” he told reporters “I don’t care, to be honest … even death threats. I don’t give a damn.”
Mr Ghebreyesus was responding to a question about whether criticism from world leaders such as President Donald Trump in the midst of a global pandemic makes it more difficult to operate the WHO.
Mr Ghebreyesus commented specifically on insults that he said came from Taiwan.
“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. We need to be honest. I will be straight today. From Taiwan,” he said.
“And Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticising me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care.”
The official is currently sparring with Mr Trump who has accused him of unduly aligning with the Chinese in the battle against the dreaded pandemic. Mr Trump also threatened to withdraw financial support for the WHO, though he later backtracked.
Mr Ghebreyesus has since responded to Mr Trump, urging him not to ‘politicise’ the war on COVID-19.
“Please quarantine COVID politics. That’s what we want. We don’t care about personal attacks,” he said. “We care about the life passing every single minute unnecessarily because we couldn’t unite to fight this virus.”
He also pleaded for world leaders and politicians to put aside differences and focus on the fight against the pandemic, which has now infected more than 1.4 million people around the world and killed at least 83,615, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.