Editorial Notes

Trump threatens to stop money to WHO. How is it funded currently?

At present, the United States is the World Health Organization's biggest contributor. Stopping such funding can have devastating effect on health services worldwide.
By IASToppers
April 14, 2020

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Funding Procedure of WHO
  • WHO’s current funding pattern
  • Conclusion

Trump threatens to stop money to WHO. How is it funded currently?

For IASToppers’ Editorial Simplified Archive, click here

Introduction

  • Recently, US President threatened to freeze US funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it had “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic.
  • He said WHO had “called it wrong” on COVID-19 and that it was very “China-centric” in its approach, suggesting that the WHO had gone along with China’s efforts months ago to under-represent the severity of the outbreak.

Funding Procedure of WHO

There are four kinds of contributions that make up funding for the WHO.

These are

  • In recent years, assessed contributions to the WHO have declined, and now account for less than one-fourth of its funding.
  • These funds are important for the WHO, because they provide a level of predictability and minimise dependence on a narrow donor base.
  • Voluntary contributions make up for most of the remaining funding.

WHO’s current funding pattern

  • The United States is currently the WHO’s biggest contributor, making up 14.67 per cent of total funding by providing $553.1 million.
  • The US is followed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation forming 9.76 per cent or $367.7 million.
  • The third biggest contributor is the GAVI Vaccine Alliance at 8.39 per cent, with the UK (7.79 per cent) and Germany (5.68 per cent) coming fourth and fifth respectively.
  • The four next biggest donors are international bodies: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (5.09 per cent), World Bank (3.42 per cent), Rotary International (3.3 per cent), and the European Commission (3.3 per cent).
  • India makes up 0.48 per cent of total contributions, and China 0.21 per cent.
  • Out of the total funds, $1.2 billion is allotted for the Africa region, $1.02 billion for Eastern Mediterranean region, $963.9 million for the WHO headquarters, followed by South East Asia ($198.7 million), Europe ($200.4 million), Western Pacific ($152.1 million), and Americas (39.2 million) regions respectively. India is part of the South East Asia region.
  • The biggest programme area where the money is allocated is polio eradication (26.51 per cent), followed by increasing access to essential health and nutrition services (12.04 per cent), and preventable diseases vaccines (8.89 per cent).

Conclusion

WHO, as a global convener, plays a key role in standard-setting in public health. This is a matter of much importance to the global economy, especially those with a vibrant pharmaceutical industry.

However, in the time of pandemic, one should not accuse a multilateral international health organization for being favoured by another country. On the other side, such health institution must take care that it does not fall in one country’s favour while handling such a pandemic.  

The last major global crisis was the 2008 financial meltdown. At that time, the most important economies came together in the G20. The response then required the largest players to take concerted action in synergy with international organizations. This must be replicated to handle COVID-19 crisis as well.

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