The Curious Case of WHO Funding

Business Today|July 12, 2020

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The Curious Case of WHO Funding
US President Donald Trump’s announcement to end support for WHO is a reminder for the much-needed reforms in the agency’s financial structure
JOE C. MATHEW

On April 15, President Donald Trump tweeted that the US is halting funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) and will carry out a review to assess the agency’s role in mismanaging the coronavirus outbreak. In a quick response, the same day, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft Cofounder Bill Gates said in a tweet that ending support for the WHO during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped, no other organisation can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever, Gates tweeted.

Both tweets carry immense weight. The US government is the biggest donor of the WHO. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is the second-largest. Both entities together account for nearly a quarter of the WHO's $5.3-billion funding expected from various quarters for the 2020-21 biennium. Any disruption in the fund flow can impact the budgetary plans of the WHO, half of which goes into managing acute health emergencies and polio eradication programmes across the world. The tweets suggested that the credibility and financial flexibility of the 72-year-old organisation was at stake, or at least the US wanted to give that impression, at a time when the WHO's efforts are needed most.

$2.4 bn WHO’s current annual budget

80% Donor contribution to the budget

$5.3 bn Expected funding in 2020 and 2021

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July 12, 2020