The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday, April 8, revealed he had been receiving death threats and racial slur from some people.
This, he said, was as a result of running the global efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has seen at least 83,615 people dead since it was first reported in China.
Dr. Tedros brushed off the personal attacks during a press conference from the organisation’s Geneva headquarters but said a line was crossed when people decided to insult Africa.
“I can tell you, personal attacks have been going on for more than two, three months. Abuses, or racist comments, giving me names, black or Negro,” Dr. Tedros said.
“I am proud of being black, proud of being Negro. I do not care, to be honest … even death threats. I do not give a damn,” he added.
Dr. Tedros made these remarks while responding to a question about whether criticism from world leaders such as President Donald Trump in the midst of a global pandemic made it more difficult to operate the WHO.
He, however, commented specifically on insults that he said came from Taiwan.
“The Foreign Ministry knows the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticising me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I did not care,” said Dr. Tedros.
The comments, sparked anger in Taiwan, which described Tedros’ comments as “baseless”.
“Our country has never encouraged the public to launch personal attacks against him or made any racially discriminatory comments,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters on Thursday.
“Our government demands an immediate clarification and an apology from director-general Tedros over such extremely irresponsible act of slander,” she added.
The WHO boss has however denied being partisan or holding any geopolitical bias.
“Please quarantine COVID politics. That’s what we want. We don’t care about personal attacks,” he said.
“We care about life passing every single minute unnecessarily because we could not unite to fight this virus,” he added.
This came barely days after Tedros condemned remarks made by scientists on a French TV saying they had insulted the entire black community. The scientists were discussing the potential of moving a vaccine trial in Europe and Australia to Africa.
Critics of Tedros have also recently accused the WHO under his leadership of being too close to Beijing and complimentary of China’s response to the coronavirus.
In a tweet threatening to cut funding, US President Donald Trump not only accused WHO of bias but also accused the organization as “very China centric”.