Who funds WHO?

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US President Donald Trump has stirred a debate over the impartiality of the World Health Organisation (WHO) accusing it of being too China-centric and thus failing to stop novel coronavirus pandemic. Trump went on to stop the US’s fund to the WHO.

The US has been the biggest contributor to the WHO purse, which has a budget of $6.2 billion. The WHO is funded by its members and philanthropic organisations.

According to the WHO website, the US with 14.67 per cent of total contribution is the largest funding source for the United Nations health agency. The next big contributors are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (9.76 per cent) and GAVI Alliance (8.39 per cent). The GAVI Alliance is a Geneva-based public-private partnership organisation to which Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes a sizeable contribution.

The UK (7.79 per cent) and Germany (5.68 per cent) are the only other country after the US to make over 5 per cent of total financial budget of the WHO.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) is other body to make over 5 per cent contribution. The World Bank (3.42 per cent), the Rotary International (3.3 per cent), the European Commission (3.3 per cent) and Japan (2.7 per cent) are among other major contributors to the WHO’s finances.

China, which is at the centre of the current WHO controversy in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic, contributes only 0.21 per cent of total money flowing into the global health agency.

India’s share of contribution is more than double the China’s at 0.48 per cent and much closer to France’s (0.5 per cent). Interestingly, even Pakistan contributes (0.36 per cent) to the WHO more than China.

There are four ways in which the WHO gets its fund. Voluntary contributions are the biggest category of funding that the WHO receives – almost 80 per cent of all contributions. Voluntary contributions can be made by member states – 194 at present — or NGOs. These funds come in two forms – core voluntary contributions and specified voluntary contributions.

Core contributions give the WHO flexibility to use the money according to its need and priorities, specified contributions need to go towards the specified cause.

The next big category of funding is assessed contributions. These are like membership fees. Being a WHO member for a country does not come free. The WHO assesses stipulated fee for each member country depending on its financial health and population. For some reason, world’s biggest economy, the US, contributes almost 15 per cent of total WHO funds and the second largest less than 0.25 per cent.

The assessed contributions or WHO membership fee accounts for 17 per cent of total funding of the health agency, which introduced a special funding framework in 2011, two years after swine flu pandemic hit the globe.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) contributions make up about 3 per cent of total WHO funds. Its stated goal in 2011 was “to improve and strengthen the sharing of influenza viruses with human pandemic potential”. Novel coronavirus is much like an influenza virus causing similar symptoms in humans with a difference that it complicates pre-existing health conditions particularly among elderly people.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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