United States to stop Funding the World Health Organization (WHO). How is WHO funded?

Background Context

The United States President Donald Trump announced to halt the major portion of its funding that fuelled the global health and health programs undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO) citing that, the WHO has “missed the call” on havoc spread by the coronavirus pandemic. This is considered to be the major strike on WHO since its establishment, and the United States is the lead financial source.

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Donal Trump mentioned the WHO board had “got it wrong” on the COVID-19 episode and they were very “China Centric” in their approach to fight the coronavirus, apparently mentioning, the WHO tuned very well with the Republic of China, and had a brief idea about the severity of the consequences of the coronavirus if ever to turn into pandemic, months earlier to the actual announcement of the outbreak from the Republic of China.

WHO failed to act, thus risking potential lives and economies into turmoil.

As a result of this, US President Donald Trump decided to consider the option of halting or cut-off the funding being disbursed to the World Health Organization (WHO) every year (approximately $58-$60 million, as of March 2020). This is a big blow to the WHO, as the United States is its major funding source.

Key Facts: World Health Organization

  • Agency Name: World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Date of establishment: 07 April 1948.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
  • Parent Organization: United Nations Economic and Social Council

The preliminary aim of the World Health Organization (WHO), is to act as the coordinating body to direct the efforts toward global health programs across. Since its inception, the United States has been its major source of finances, technical expertise, and support.

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Moreover, the US has an active participant in shaping its governance structure. That being said, Unites States is the largest funding source or contributor to the World Health Organization (WHO).

How is WHO Financed or Funded

There are four major sources or streams of contributions that rich the bank account of the World Health Organization (WHO)

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Accessed Contributions

According to the information mentioned on the WHO’s website, the term assessed contribution is the fee or dues nations pay in order to be a member of the esteemed organization.

This set amount, expected to be paid to the member nation’s government, annually towards WHO is calculated by the per capita income (nation’s wealth) and member nation’s population.

Voluntary Contributions

Any additional contribution (in addition to their assessed contribution) by member states or from other partners is termed, Voluntary contributions, this can range from flexible to highly earmarked. However, voluntary contributions or voluntary funding are coined for contributions from private institutions or organizations and individuals).

Change for Change
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The core voluntary funding enables the less well-funded activities to benefit from a consistent flow of resources and ease the fulfillment bottleneck that may or may not arise when immediate funding is not in place.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Contributions

This was initiated in the year 2011 to enhance, sustain and reinforce the sharing of the influenza viruses with human pandemic possibilities. Mainly to improve the accessibility of the developing countries to available vaccines and other pandemic-related medical supplies and awareness programs resources. Very recently the accessed contribution to WHO had a steady decline and this narrates to one-fourth of its funding.

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The accessed contributions are very important in terms of continuations of the various campaigns undertaken by WHO on various continents and they reduce the dependency on other sources of finances, such as a collective donor base. Although voluntary funding or voluntary contribution (institutional and individuals) make up most of the remaining funding.

The Current Funding Scale

United States holds the honor of WHO’s biggest, regular and prominent contributor, accounting for 14.67 percent of the overall funding, this collectively translates to USD $553.1 million.

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The second position is secured by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation making it 9.76 percent, roughly translating to USD $400 million.

In the third position, we have GAVI Vaccine Alliance at 8.39 percent, followed by the United Kingdom (UK) at 7.79 percent in the fourth position and Germany at 5.68 percent, securing the fifth position respectively.

The four next biggest contributors or donors are international establishments …

  • United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – 5.10 percent
  • World Bank – 3.5 Percent
  • Rotary International – 3.3 percent
  • European Commission – 3.3 percent
  • India’s contribution to WHO - was 0.5 percent and Ironically China - 0.21 percent.

The Distribution and Utilization of the Funds

The collected contributions or accumulated funds from varied sources are utilized and allocated to different regions of the world.

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  • African Region - USD $1.2 billion
  • Eastern Mediterranean Region - USD $1.02 billion
  • WHO Headquarters - USD $964 million
  • South-East Asia Region - USD $198.7 million (This includes India)
  • Europe – USD $201 million
  • Western Pacific - USD $153 million
  • America – USD $39.5 million

The biggest campaigns and programs undertaken through this funding are

  • Polio eradication - 27 percent fund allocation
  • Essential health and nutrition services - 12.5 percent fund allocation
  • Preventable disease vaccine - 8.9 percent

The United States and World Health Organization - Current Situation

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The United States stood strong with the World Health Organization (WHO) since its establishment and continued to be a prominent donor and financial contributor, and witnessed many times when WHO underwent major changes and reforms.

Taking it further, there are several key questions, relating to the United States' active engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) including:

  • The stretch to which the United States will continue its funding assistance and another related backup of WHO and what part it will play in WHO’s governance structure and direct required reforms.
  • Under the leadership of the new Director-General, the WHO made significant improvement and progress in overall effectiveness in organizational deliverables and addressing its challenges.
  • The enhanced standards of technical, administrative, and governance partnership between the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO), more importantly in the unforeseen situations of the pandemic, new public health emergencies, and disease outbreaks in the near future.

WHO encounters a number of institutional defiances (Obstacles)?

Strategy wins

It's doesn't matter how many stand in the field. How they are being used decides the victory in Chess as well as in the real battlefield...
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The WHO faces a series of varied challenges, some of them are broad mandate with calculated and inflexible financing and administrative complexities and a proven track record of ill responses and performances in immediate health programs in case of emergencies, thus there have been massive changes and reforms been considered to WHO responses more effective in relation the emergencies.

Although with the growing number of adjacent responsibilities, the funding and budget options witnessed no change in recent years and remained flat and unchanged.

The budget and funding options remained least flexible with greater dependency on voluntary funding often directed for specific projects and pre-defined activities, sometimes even for the specific geographic region.

The inconvenient, incommodious, decentralized, and administrative system/structure; and A confounding mandate of being both, a technical establishment with health expertise and a political institution or platform for debate and negotiation on inharmonious health issues, are not suitable for either.

Changes and Reforms for the World Health Organization (WHO)

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World Health Organization (WHO) is not the state department but an intergovernmental institution and thus, not immune to political power-play as being noted and observed by the reports of the director-general, having avoided it naming the virus after the country where it was originated and first identified the i.e. Republic of China and obstruct the formal declaration of a pandemic.

Moreover, only 1/4th of the financial contribution is collected form UN member states or countries, and the actual funding is by voluntary contributions from various countries and organizations.

WHO plays a crucial role in defining new protocols, setting standards and benchmarks in relation to public health, and essential medicines. However, unattended and least-cared, this is a matter of most importance for the global economies, especially those regions with the spirited and vigorous pharmaceutical industry.

The United States is the leading funding and directive contributor, but eastern nations like China have also acknowledged WHO’s importance in setting standards and protocols.

World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making committee for the World Health Organization (WHO) held annually is attended by all member states.

With importunity for the ideal and recommended, real-time feedback and response from WHO, the Executive Board (EB) of WHO should be treated as a standing body, and the elected countries to have Geneva-based permanent appointed representatives on it. The EB should gather when needed and mandate or direct the recommended action by WHO.