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Trump deprived WHO of funding: what the organization and the world will lose

The main task of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to solve problems that threaten human health. This is stated in the video. "Present tense".

Photo: Shutterstock

It is WHO that sets international standards for the treatment of diseases, helps underdeveloped countries to maintain the health system and takes on the functions of combating previously unknown diseases - from research to developing treatment technologies - as is now happening with a new type of coronavirus. The name COVID-19 caused by the disease was appropriated by WHO.

This organization has several sources of funding. Conditionally, they can be divided into two types - mandatory contributions for the states that are members of WHO, and voluntary donations from sponsors to fight a specific disease.

For example, the Microsoft founder Bill Gates Foundation donated $ 1,6 billion to WHO to combat polio.

Excluding sponsorship, WHO’s total budget is currently $ 4,4 billion. It is approved once every 2 years. The WHO Director makes a report to representatives of states, voices the main challenges that could threaten the health of mankind, and the amounts needed to address them.

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For example, in the report for 2018-2019, the main goals were the fight against infectious diseases, increasing life expectancy and supporting health systems in developed countries.

The United States was the largest source of funding for WHO. In 2019, their contribution amounted to $ 400 million, which is approximately 15% of the budget of the entire organization. While China, according to U.S. President Donald Trump, financed WHO for only $ 40 million.

For more than 70 years of its existence, WHO has cited the main achievements as the complete eradication of smallpox in the world, halving the spread of malaria, combating HIV and various types of respiratory viral infections.

In 2009, during the swine flu epidemic, the Council of Europe accused WHO of exaggerating the dangers of the virus. WHO insisted on mass immunization of the world's population.

In 2015, the international non-profit organization Doctors Without Borders criticized WHO for ignoring the threat of Ebola fever: outbreaks were recorded in Central and West Africa, more than 11 people died, although in 000 WHO announced the end of the global fever epidemic.

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, the question arose about the role that WHO played in the initial suppression of the virus, and how effectively its budget was used, writes Fox News.

Trump announced at a White House coronavirus briefing that the United States would immediately stop funding WHO, stating that it put “political correctness above saving lives.”

Trump announced that the United States will conduct a 60- or 90-day investigation into why the actions of the "pro-Chinese" WHO caused "so many deaths" and why the organization "hid" the facts about the spread of coronavirus.

What will change at WHO

“Not much will change in the short term because WHO will be hoping for a change in US leadership in November or other countries filling the budget gap,” said Dr. Roger Beith, a visiting scientist at the American Enterprise Institute and an expert on public health. and emerging markets.

However, many experts also argue that the United States has chosen the wrong time to stop funding.

The United States has been the largest sponsor of WHO since its founding in 1948, and currently provides almost 10 times more money than China in the form of compulsory and voluntary contributions, which is about $ 500 million per year, compared to $ 48 million, which gives Beijing.

Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow for international regulation at the Heritage Fund, emphasized that the total amount of US contributions is 15,9 percent of the organization’s total budget, but the impact of canceling payments will not be devastating right now, it will be noticeable in the long run.

“However, an immediate end to funding would be a significant cut in WHO funds. Developing countries that depend on international assistance to fight COVID-19 will be affected, '' he explained. "While the US is providing significant assistance through other channels, the withdrawal from WHO funding will negatively impact the COVID-19 response in such countries."

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But even though the money is still coming to WHO from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as from other countries and organizations such as South Korea, Australia and Japan, there are rumors in the healthcare world that even this is not enough.

Many analysts emphasize that without the United States, other Member States - all those fighting to contain the virus - will likely not be able to step up and fill the financial gap in the WHO budget any time soon. Instead, the burden may fall on private donors such as the Gates Foundation, the Gavi Alliance, and even the US Emergency Response Fund.

A November 2018 report published by BioMed Central emphasizes that WHO “continues to experience enormous financial stress,” and this highlights the organization's “underfunded”.

“WHO must establish its presence as a credible leader in the global health space,” the report says. - Member States have refused to provide more money due to, inter alia, a lack of political will and financial commitment from WHO to Member States. Especially in front of wealthy donor countries, which found inefficiency, lack of transparency and minimal responsibility within the organization. "

According to the WHO, it regularly conducts internal audits, which are “designed to improve the Organization’s activities and increase its integrity and reputation”.

In the most recent audit report issued in May 2019, the work of most WHO programs and regional offices was rated as “partially satisfactory”. These are offices in Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and the global headquarters for malaria control.

The performance of several regional offices - offices in Yemen and Mongolia - was considered "unsatisfactory".

Moreover, as the organization’s internal reports received by the Associated Press showed, in 2018, WHO spent more on travel expenses (sometimes unauthorized) than on some of the biggest public health problems.

During that year, the “lack of money” at WHO was triggered by the nearly $ 200 million worth of air travel, and employees sometimes violated their own organization rules by traveling in business class, booking expensive tickets at the last minute, staying in five-star hotels and going to inconsistent with management trips.

For comparison: in 2019, WHO spent $ 59 million on tuberculosis, and about $ 71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, which is significantly less than on employee travel.

“WHO asks countries around the world for money every year and rarely, if ever, gets the budget it needs,” said Curtis Ellis, economic expert and policy director for America First Policies. "If the US had canceled funding earlier, they would have to reconsider their actions and ban officials from flying business class."

The US government, as a rule, advises officials not to fly in business class, but in certain circumstances (disability or upgrading a ticket at their own expense) this can be done.

Out of a total of $ 6,27 billion in WHO funding, only $ 554 million, or about 9 percent, went to the WHO emergency health care program and another $ 306 million to prevent and control outbreaks of the Humanitarian Response Plan.

“In other words, it looks like less than 15% of WHO funding in 2018–2019 went to identifying and responding to international pandemics. Most of the funds went to corporate services and support functions rather than the WHO Emergency Health Program, ”Schaefer said.

Other health issues for which WHO allocates resources: social determinants, gender equality and human rights ($ 21,5 million); reproductive health, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health ($ 230 million); violence and injuries, for example, as a result of traffic accidents ($ 27,5 million); mental health and substance abuse ($ 50,3 million).

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“These are important issues. But unlike infectious diseases and pandemics, they primarily relate to health issues in the family and do not pose a threat of spreading from one country to another, Schaefer said. "The focus of WHO should be on truly international health threats."

In his view, instead of stopping funding during the current crisis, the United States would have to provide funding to complete the WHO response against COVID-19 in order to avoid China’s potential influence on the organization’s decisions.

According to Brett Bruen, a former US diplomat who previously served as director of global engagement at the White House and now runs communications firm Global Situation Room, the funding freeze is akin to “a proposal to leave NATO in the middle of a battle against the Taliban.

“Of course we would like the organization to do more, it is critical to the fight against the coronavirus. There are no own ways out of this epidemic. We need other countries, he stressed. - At the moment there is no alternative to WHO. WHO has its own problems, but now we hope for an early end to this crisis. "

As ForumDaily wrote earlier:

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