Context:The President of the U.S recently announced that he would halt the funding the US gives to the WHO, on the allegations of mismanaging the spread of coronavirus.
Basis of criticism of WHO in handling COVID-19 pandemic
- Taken long time to react:
- While most countries closed down air travel at the first stage, the WHO for a long time took a stand against travel and trade restrictions on China.
- On January 30, WHO Director General had said that WHO opposed the idea of travel and trade restrictions.
- On the other hand,the same day the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee had urged countries to be prepared.
- Failure in understanding the nature of COVID-19 transmission soon:
- As example WHO officials had earlier brushed aside Indian government's concerns saying there is no human to human transmission.
- Allegations made by US
- China centric role of WHO
- China, which is at the centre of the current WHO controversy in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, contributes only 0.21 per cent of total money flowing into the WHO.
- The US also alleged that the WHO has promoted China's “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
- According to the US, WHO has severely mismanaged and covered up the spread of coronavirus” and for “failed to adequately obtain, vet, and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.
- Funding concerns of US
- 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.
- In 2018-19 the Americas received $62.2 mn for WHO projects. That is where most of WHO funding comes from and the least of it goes.
Probable impact of the decision of U.S
- Worldwide impact:
- For the WHO, the loss of about 15% of its total funding is bound to have an impact the world over.
- However, unless other countries do the same as the US, the move may not severely impact WHO operations.
- Resource crunch in WHO:
- The WHO has been seeking at least $675 million additional funding for critical response efforts in countries most in need during the pandemic.
- But halting funding at a crucial time will not only impact the functioning of the global body but also hurt humanity.
- At a time of unprecedented COVID-19 crisis:
- The world is currently in an uncertain phase of a pandemic that has killed more than 1,25,000 people worldwide and infected at least two million.
- Many low and middle-income countries that look up to WHO for guidance and advice, and even for essentials such as testing kits and masks, will be badly hit.
- When solidarity and unmitigated support from every member-state is necessary to win the war against the COVID-19,withholding funding will not be in the best interest of any country.
- WHO was set up on April 7, 1948 after its constitution was signed by 61 countries on July 22, 1946 at the first meeting of the World Health Assembly.
- The Geneva-headquartered organisation has six regional offices and 194 members currently.
- Its primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.
Its main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; non communicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.
WHO’s functions are
- To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work;
- To establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate;
- To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services;
- To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments;
- Members of the United Nations may become Members of the Organization by signing or otherwise accepting WHO’s Constitution in accordance with the provisions of Chapter XIX and in accordance with their constitutional processes.
- Territories or groups of territories which are not responsible for the conduct of their international relations may be admitted as Associate Members by the Health Assembly.
Organs of WHO
1.The World Health Assembly
- The Health Assembly shall be composed of delegates representing Members.
- The functions of the Health Assembly shall be:
(a) to determine the policies of the Organization;
(b) to name the Members entitled to designate a person to serve on the Board;
(c) to appoint the Director-General;
(d) to review and approve reports and activities of the Board and of the Director-General
2.The Executive Board
- The Board consists of thirty-four persons designated by as many Members. The Health Assembly, taking into account an equitable geographical distribution, shall elect the Members entitled to designate a person to serve on the Board.
- The functions of the Board shall be:
- to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly;
- to act as the executive organ of the Health Assembly;
- to perform any other functions entrusted to it by the Health Assembly;
- to advise the Health Assembly on questions referred to it by that body and on matters assigned to the Organization by conventions, agreements and regulations;
- to submit advice or proposals to the Health Assembly on its own initiative;
- to prepare the agenda of meetings of the Health Assembly;
- The Secretariat shall comprise the Director-General and such technical and administrative staff as the Organization may require.
- The Director-General shall be appointed by the Health Assembly on the nomination of the Board on such terms as the Health Assembly may determine.
Understanding the financial side of WHO
1.Sources of Funding for WHO
- The WHO's budget is funded by a mix of assessed and voluntary contributions.
- Assessed contributions:
- It mainly refers to financial support from the member-countries of the world body.
- It is relative to the member- state’s wealth and population.
- Trends in funding of WHO:
- The WHO claims that contributions from the member-states had declined over the years and now accounts for less than one quarter of its programme financing.
- The rest of the resources, it says, is raised through voluntary donation.
- The major European economies are among the bigger contributors to the organisation.
1.Voluntary donations from member states
2.Utilisation of these funds
3.Who prioritizes the spending?
- Role of World Health Assembly:
- The annual programme of work is passed by 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.
- This body determines WHO policies, appoints the Director-General, supervises financial policies, and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget.
- The decision on which country gets how much also depends on the individual situation in the countries.
India and WHO
- India became a party to the WHO Constitution on January 12, 1948.
- On the ground, WHO has been a key partner for India in the immunisation programme, tackling TB and neglected diseases such as leprosy and kala azar, and nutrition programmes across states.
The WHO-India Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) 2019-2023:
- It has been developed jointly by the Health Ministry and the WHO India country office.
- Strategic priorities of The CCS:
- To accelerate progress on Universal Health Coverage,
- Better protect the population against health emergencies,
- Promote health and wellness by addressing determinants of health,
- Enhance India’s global leadership in health.
- It also 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
- Working together during the COVID-19 pandemic
- According to the WHO country representative in India, “India is at a crucial juncture in its fight against COVID-19.
- WHO has been working closely with MoHFW and various state governments on preparedness and response measures for COVID-19, including surveillance and contact tracing; laboratory and research protocols; risk communications; hospital preparedness; training on infection prevention and control and cluster containment plan.