Health and Healthcare Systems

How is the World Health Organization funded?

Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2020. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC29LF902SBX

The UN agency is coordinating the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. Image: Reuters

Josephine Moulds
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  • The World Health Organization's biggest donor, the US, has halted funding.
  • UN chief said now is "not the time" to cut funds.

US president Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while his administration reviews the WHO's response to the global crisis.

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UN Secretary General António Guterres said now is "not the time" to cut funds to the WHO.

"The international community [should] work together in solidarity to stop this virus," he said.

"It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against COVID-19."

The US is the biggest single donor to the Geneva-based WHO. It contributed more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of the WHO's annual budget.

Top 20 contributors to the Programme budget 2018 (US$ thousands)
Top 20 contributors to the WHO Programme budget 2018 (US$ thousands) Image: World Health Organization

The second-largest funder is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides 9.8% of the WHO's funds.

The WHO launched an appeal in March for $675 million to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. It is reported to be planning a fresh appeal in coming days.

Other countries are stepping up their own financial support for the organization. The UK, for example, has announced £200 million in new funding for international efforts to contain and combat the pandemic, including £65 million for the WHO.

WHO revenue in 2018, by source
WHO revenue in 2018, by source Image: World Health Organization

The WHO’s total budget for 2018–2019 was approved at $4.4 billion. There was no approved budget for humanitarian response plans and other appeals, as they are driven by events.

Budget, funds available and expenditure for the Programme budget 2018–2019 9 by budget segment, as at 31 December 2018 (in US$ million).
Image: World Health Organization

In 2018, the WHO's spending totalled $2.3 billion, down 4% from 2017. The organization said its base programmes represented 60% of spending in 2018, while polio, emergencies and special programmes represented the remaining 40%.

Programme budget expenses, by major office and category, 2018 (US$ million)
Image: World Health Organization
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Health and Healthcare SystemsGlobal Cooperation
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