Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

The WHO balance sheet


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: WHO and its funding

Mains level: Fall of major global institutions amid COVID-19 outbreak

The US has announced to halt the funding it gives to the WHO accusing it of mismanagement of the COVID-19 spread.


WHO is facing the biggest pandemic in human history. For all the responsibility vested in the WHO, it has little power.  Whatever the causes of this disaster are, it is clear that the WHO has failed in its duty to raise the alarm in time. This shortfall of WHO is failure indicative of a deeper malaise: the global institutional framework is a pawn in the hands of the great powers, cash-strapped.

About WHO

  • The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.
  • The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.

Where does WHO get its funding from?

  • It is funded by a large number of countries, philanthropic organisations, UN organisations etc.
  • Voluntary donations from member states (such as the US) contribute 35.41%, assessed contributions are 15.66%, philanthropic organisations account for 9.33%, UN organisations contribute about 8.1%; the rest comes from myriad sources.
  • India contributes 1% of member states’ donations.
  • Countries decide how much they pay and may also choose not to.

Its expenditure

  • The WHO is involved in various programmes. For example, in 2018-19, 19.36% (about $1 bn) was spent on polio eradication, 8.77% on increasing access to essential health and nutrition services, 7% on vaccine preventable diseases and about 4.36% on prevention and control of outbreaks.
  • The Africa countries received $1.6 bn for WHO projects; and South East Asia (including India) received $375 mn.

How does WHO prioritise its spending?

  • The annual programme of work is passed by the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly.
  • It is attended by delegates from all member states and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • The main functions of the Assembly, held annually in Geneva, are to determine WHO policies, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • The decision on which country gets how much depends on the situation in the countries.

WHO and India

  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution on January 12, 1948.
  • The first session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia was held on October 4-5, 1948 in the office of India’s Health Minister, and inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) 2019-2023 has been developed jointly by the Health Ministry and the WHO India country office.
  • The CCS aims to address complex challenges such as the prevention of NCDs, the control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the reduction of air pollution, and the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses.
  • On the ground, the WHO has been a key partner in the immunisation programme, tackling TB and neglected diseases such as leprosy and kala azar, and nutrition programmes across states.

Immediate reason for US withdrawal

  • The US contributes almost 15% of the WHO’s total funding and almost 31% of the member states’ donations, the largest chunk in both cases.
  • It receives $62.2 mn for WHO projects.
  • That is where most of the WHO funding comes from and the least of it goes.


  • For the WHO, the loss of about 15% of its total funding is bound to have an impact on the world over.
  • However, unless other countries do the same as the US, the move may not severely hamstring WHO operations.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] World Health Organization (WHO) And Coronavirus Handling

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