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WHO and its funding 

  • IASbaba
  • April 15, 2020
  • 0
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INTERNATIONAL/ HEALTH

Topic: General Studies 1 & 2:

  • Contemporary World History (UN & its challenges)
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

WHO and its funding 

Context: US has halted the funding to the WHO over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

About WHO

  • WHO, founded in 1948, is a specialized agency of the United Nations with a broad mandate to act as a coordinating authority on international health issues.
  • The main decision-making body at WHO is the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), attended by all member-states. 
  • There is also the Executive Board (EB) comprising technically qualified persons from 34 countries, elected based on geographic representation from across the globe. 

What were the reasons given by US President for stopping the funds to WHO? 

  • WHO was being too lenient with China in the earliest days of the pandemic 
  • WHO’s delay in declaring COVID-19 as Public Health Emergency of International Concern(PHEIC) and as a result failed to impose a travel ban on China 
  • WHO must be held accountable for its inefficient working.

Do You Know?

  • USA is the biggest overall donor to WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
  • China’s contribution to WHO for 2018-2019 was almost $76 million in assessed contributions and some $10 million in voluntary funding
  • The WHO has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the COVID-19 pandemic

How is the WHO funded?

  1. Assessed Contributions
    • These are the dues countries pay in order to be a member of the Organization. 
    • The amount each Member State must pay is calculated relative to the country’s wealth and population.
    • These contributions have declined, and now account for less than one-fourth of its funding.
  2. Voluntary Contributions
    • These come from Member States (in addition to their assessed contribution) or from other partners (organisations & individuals) 
    • They can range from flexible to highly earmarked.
    • Top funders include Bill and Melinda Gates (USD 367.7 million), GAVI Vaccine Alliance, World Bank, Rotary International and the European Commission

Consequences of the US decision

  • Politicization of the Pandemic
  • Reduces WHO’s ability to coordinate the fight against pandemic in coming months
  • WHO’s significance will decline in long run if the shortfall in funding is not addressed
  • Impacts the Public Health prospects of Africa: Half of all spending of WHO was in Africa.
  • Impacts Health programs of WHO: A quarter of WHO budget went to polio eradication, 12% on access to healthcare, 5% on outbreak prevention and control
  • It provides further scope for China to increase its funding and influence in WHO
  • Signals US intention of retreating from Global affairs thus creating vacuum in Global Leadership role

Trend of US retreating from Global leadership role

Since Trump Presidency (2016 onwards), US has

  • Quit the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. cultural agency UNESCO
  • Pulled out of Paris accord and Iran nuclear deal 
  • Cut funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) 
  • Opposed a U.N. migration pact

Way Ahead

  • US should hold WHO accountable not by suspending its funding but by setting up actionable committee to look into lapses in WHO’s response during pandemic
  • Institutional Reforms in WHO
    • Increase the flexible funding
    • Reduction in bureaucratic complexity to ease the process
    • Reduce reliance on voluntary contributions and instead increase assessed contributions
    • Empowering the Executive board for quick decision making backed by scientific data
    • More Democratic functioning of the body – needs to insulate from global power politics

Connecting the dots:

  • WTO, UNO – Democratic deficit in their structure and functioning
  • Impact of decline in WHO’s funding on India’s health funding

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