Why U.S wants to halt funding to World Health Organisation (WHO) and its implication for COVID-19 fight

President Donald Trump has announced that the United States will halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) for 60 to 90 days and said a "review will be conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus."

His reason? Trump said that the WHO was slow to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and that the organization has been "China-centric." He accused the international organization of jeopardising public health in order to appease China.

The virus has infected more than 1.9 million people worldwide and killed over 120,000 according to the Johns Hopkins University. The WHO designated the virus as a global health emergency on January 30 when there were fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases across the world.

WHO was founded in 1948 to direct and coordinate authority on international health within the United Nations system. It coordinates activities and provides guidance for its 194 member states and two associate members (Puerto Rico and Tokelau). Nigeria is also a member state of the WHO.

The WHO is funded by fees from its 194 member states, as well as voluntary contributions. Voluntary contributions comprise nearly three-quarters of the agency's financing and are often earmarked for specific initiatives.

The WHO's activities range from promoting the polio vaccine to supporting childhood nutrition to playing a leadership role in the case of health emergencies. It has 37 offices in each of the 36 states in Nigeria and the FCT which provide technical support to States and Local Government Areas (LGAs) and enable the organisation to swiftly respond to health needs which include polio eradication across the country.

The agency has been at the front line of providing guidance for health workers across the world on how to care for COVID-19 patients and guidance to the public on how to protect themselves.

WHO runs a two-year budget cycle which is funded with annual donations from its member states. According to a report from its 2018-2019 budget cycle, donations from member states make up 51% of the funding. These contributions fall into two categories: assessments (i.e. membership dues) and voluntary contributions which comprise nearly three-quarters of the agency's financing. For 2020 and 2021, its budget is $4.8 billion, or $2.4 billion per year and the U.S. is the largest single government donor to WHO and in the recent past, it has also given the most money in voluntary contributions.

According to the WHO's budget portal, U.S. membership dues for 2020 and 2021 is $237 million with an additional pledge of more than $656 million for specific programs, Nigeria's contribution is $2.7 million which accounts for about 0.05% of the agency's bi-annual budget, other low-income countries pay as low as 0.1%. This explains why WHO's budget rely very much on U.S contributions and why the world is taking Trump's action very serious. For the two-year cycle of 2018 and 2019, U.S. contributions accounted for about 20% of the WHO's total budget.

With the U.S halting its donation to the WHO, the fight against COVID-19 being coordinated by the agency may be the worst hit, as well as its other programmes like polio eradication, and other diseases.

WHO has said it would review its current funding capabilities and work with partners to fill any financial gaps to ensure the agency's work continues uninterrupted. "For now, our focus, my focus, is on stopping this virus and saving lives," said Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the second largest donor and highest non-government donor to the WHO described Trump's action as dangerous.

"Halting funding for the World Health Organization 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 organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever," Gates tweeted.

The post Why U.S wants to halt funding to World Health Organisation (WHO) and its implication for COVID-19 fight appeared first on Neusroom.