USA Threatens To Stop WHO Funding

  • Recently, USA threatened to cut US funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying the international group had “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It is to be noted that at present, the US is the World Health Organization's biggest contributor, making up 14.67 per cent of total funding.


  • The organization's initial response to the outbreak has been increasingly scrutinized as global cases soar over 1 million.
  • The US accused WHO of being very China centric in its approach to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
  • WHO, an international body which promotes healthcare and improves access to medicine, had “called it wrong” on the pandemic, appearing to suggest it failed to alert other countries quickly enough.
  • Further, WHO has came under fire for a slow response as the virus spread and for pushing Chinese misinformation.
  • US also criticized WHO for giving faulty recommendation against curtailing international travel to stop the virus which first spread from China.

WHO’s Reaction

  • In response to US threat, WHO Head defended the organization's response to the coronavirus pandemic, at one point directly responding to criticisms leveled US.
  • Still in the acute phase of a pandemic, WHO said that this is not the time to cut back on funding and called for unity and a halt to "politicization" of the global health crisis, specifically urging China and the United States to show "honest leadership".

WHO’s Suggestion

  • In order to combat with COVID-19, the world should follow the example of what the former Soviet Union and the United States did in 1967 when they launched a 10-year global campaign that eradicated smallpox, a disease then killing 2 million people annually.
  • The United States and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy, they should come together to fight it and the rest of G-20 should come together to fight it, and the rest of the world should come together to focus on working in solidarity to stop the virus.


Is this really the failure of WHO?

  • WHO works in coordination with the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) in order to assess whether the outbreak constituted a public health emergency of international concern.
  • The organization performs an after-action assessment when confronted with a new and serious public health concern like corona virus.
  • So, it will be absolutely unjust to blame WHO actions in handling the COVID-19.
  • On the other hand, one may fault the WHO for not calling it a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) during its first meeting on January 22-23, 2020, and for the delay in calling the outbreak a pandemic.
  • After all, it is important to note that the WHO is only an advisory and not a regulatory body and it would be naive to fault it for China or any other country not being transparent.

US Administrative Failure

  • The US government itself has been widely criticized for initially downplaying the virus, which he likened to an ordinary flu and said was under control in the United States, before later accepting that it was a national emergency.
  • By making WHO a scapegoat, the Trump administration is trying to its cover the failures of his own administration in containing the spread of COVID-19.
  • With now around 14000 deaths due to COVID-19, the issue looks set to dominate the campaign for the US election, now seven months away.

WHO Funding

  • The WHO is funded not only by nations, but also nonprofit organizations, foundations, companies, universities and governmental alliances.

Types of Funds

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

  • Assessed Contributions: These constitute 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.
  • Specified Voluntary Contributions: These come from Member States (in addition to their assessed contribution) or from other partners. They can range from flexible to highly earmarked.
  • Core Voluntary Contributions: Core voluntary contributions allow less well-funded activities to benefit from a better flow of resources and ease implementation bottlenecks that arise when immediate financing is lacking.
  • Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Contributions: It was started in 2011 to improve and strengthen the sharing of influenza viruses with human pandemic potential, and to increase the access of developing countries to vaccines and other pandemic related supplies.

Current Funding Pattern

  • 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.
  • 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 percent), World Bank (3.42 percent), Rotary International (3.3 percent), and the European Commission (3.3 percent).
  • India makes up 0.48 percent of total contributions, and China 0.21 percent.

Fund Allotment

  • Out of the total funds, the largest share goes to the Africa region, then Eastern Mediterranean region, followed by the WHO headquarters, South East Asia, Europe, Western Pacific and Americas regions respectively.
  • The biggest programme area where the money is allocated is polio eradication (26.51 percent), followed by increasing access to essential health and nutrition services (12.04 percent), and preventable diseases vaccines (8.89 percent).

International Health Regulations (IHR)-2005

  • It represents an agreement between 196 countries including all WHO Member States to work together for global health security.
  • The purpose and scope of IHR are to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.
  • Through IHR, countries have agreed to build their capacities to detect, assess and report public health events.
  • WHO plays the coordinating role in IHR and, together with its partners, helps countries to build capacities.