17 Apr 2020

Regional health figure calls for Helen Clark's lead against Covid-19

5:46 am on 17 April 2020

The head of a Covid-19 Pasifika advisory group wants to see a former New Zealand Prime Minister leading a global push to re-energise global trust and resourcing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Prime Minister Rt Hon. Helen Clark ONZ

Former NZ PM, Helen Clark Photo: RNZ

Dr Colin Tukuitonga launched an online petition on Thursday calling for Helen Clark to take on a new role linking leaders to resources and funding supporting the World Health Organization.

He said the petition would help bring focus back to fighting the pandemic rather than weakening the global body.

Dr Tukuitonga said Ms Clark could help galvanise renewed energy and support for the global fight against the coronavirus.

He said the petition was his response to news the United States was pulling its funding to the WHO.

"The world needs to be united and given the influence of the US, not just in money terms, it's shameful in my view.

"We have concerns about WHO, and many people. There are ways and means and a time to ask those questions, but this is not a time to do this," he said.

US President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 15, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Photo: AFP

Dr Tukuitonga, who is a former head of the Pacific Community said the decision by US President Donald Trump to pull funding was small-minded but it wouldn't hurt the small islands who faced the most to lose from the pandemic.

Pacific nations were counting on broad support from partners including Australia and New Zealand to keep the coronavirus out, according to Dr Tukuitonga.

However he said the timing of Mr Trump's apparent WHO vendetta, was off.

"I don't think that the American suspension of the funding will have any material impact in the small islands in the region but what it will do is compromise the ability of WHO to do those things that are in the best interests of everyone."

Dr Colin Tukuitonga is now Associate Dean Pacific at Auckland University's School of Health and Medical Sciences.

Colin Tukuitonga, who has served as Pacific Community Director-General since January 2014.

Colin Tukuitonga, who has served as Pacific Community Director-General since January 2014. Photo: SPC