As US President Donald Trump cuts funding to the global health body during a pandemic, we explore how it contributes around the world.

US President Donald Trump turned against the World Health Organization by announcing that he is halting funding on Tuesday, a decision criticised by health experts as a crime against humanity. 

Trump added that a review is being conducted and it would investigate the organisation’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus”.

“The US funds $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year,” Trump said, noting that China "contributes roughly $40 million." Now those numbers are not exactly true, but we will come to that later.

Trump has complained that the WHO “defended the actions of the Chinese government and even praised its so-called transparency”.

While there is an ongoing debate about the WHO’s performance in the face of a pandemic, let’s take a step back and look at what the organisation provides, how it works and why exactly some experts are calling it a “crime against humanity”.

The World Health Organization

The WHO is a specialised agency within the UN system that is mainly concerned with international public health and was established on April 7 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva. The organisation is a member of the UN Sustainable Development Group. 

The organisation works globally to promote health, keep people across the world safe and to serve the most vulnerable. According to their mission statement, the WHO’s main goal is: “To ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being.”

In terms of health emergencies, it is the WHO’s responsibility to prevent emergencies and support the development of the necessary tools during outbreaks and to detect and respond to acute health emergencies.

In the latest budget proposal in February, President Trump’s administration had already requested a reduction in US contributions to the organisation from $122 million to $57.9 million. Despite the massive decrease of its contribution, the US was WHO’s top official financial contributor, with China in the second place with $28.6 million. 

In 2019, the US contributed about $553 million -  which makes it the largest contributor with almost 15 percent of WHO’s budget. 

However, the total financial support of WHO this year stood at $246.8 million and $79 million had been paid by members as of March 31.

The WHO’s importance

The WHO’s periodical report lays out its functions. The WHO is not the only major player in global health, but how this organisation differs from others is that it attempts to continuously provide global leadership in all areas of global health. 

Secondly, research is one of the main functions of the WHO; it is through research of disease and health policy that practices can be implemented on a global scale to save as many human lives as possible. Research is constantly changing and evolving, and the WHO sees it as a priority to ensure that its own research practices are in the public interest.

Another one of its functions is to set international standards for the monitoring and implementation of global health policy and practices which makes it able to set standards for global health.

It has been advocating for evidence-based and ethical policies to ensure that its work is backed by sound science, ethical behaviour, and demonstrates a high ethical standard for their international partners.

As the last main function of the WHO, its continuing efforts to track health trends across the globe should be taken into consideration. The organisation closely follows underdeveloped countries where malnutrition and preventable diseases cause high mortality rates. 

WHO programmes

The organisation’s member states are formed under six regions and each of them has a regional office. These are: Africa, Americas, East-South Asia, Europe, East Mediterranean and Western Pacific offices and the WHO has 150 field offices employing around 7,000 staff.

Some of the major programmes the WHO worked and can be considered as its major accomplishments were its actions against the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil by providing 3.5 million doses of vaccine, vaccinating five million children under the age of five in a nationwide campaign in Yemen, and a health service delivery in South Sudan under the Boma Health Initiative. 

Source: TRT World