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Coronavirus: what is the WHO and how is it financed?

As POTUS Donald Trump removes US funding from them, many people are now asking who the World Health Organisation are and what do they do.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2020, a photo shows the logo of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva. - Donald Trump ordered a freeze on funding for the World Health Organization for "mismanaging"

The famous comedy sketch ‘Who’s on first’ played out between the legendary Abbott and Costello - check it out here - may bring a smile to those watching but the American duo could never have imagined that the baseball related gag would coincide with their future president’s stance on global affairs.

After threatening to stop funding for the World Health Organisation, on Tuesday evening Donald Trump went ahead and ordered its temporary removal while an investigation into their value was conducted. Their intimate relationship, with the USA the greatest contributor, appears to be over for the time being.

WHO is at first base with POTUS Trump

As well as declaring the turning off of the US funding tap to the WHO, self-declared 'King' Trump took the opportunity to read, with occasional inclusions of unnecessary ad-libbing, from a scathing script that included the line that the organisation had “failed” in the “basic duty” surrounding the pandemic.

“The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government's official accounts,” he stated. It was yet another contradiction of stances the president had taken before, and once again appeared to be him finding a new target to redirect blame that otherwise could be pointed at him. As expected, many senior figures have criticised the president for this decision.

United States President Donald J. Trump announces that he has instructed his administration to halt funding to WHO, the World Health Organisation.
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United States President Donald J. Trump announces that he has instructed his administration to halt funding to WHO, the World Health Organisation.Polaris

The WHO is not a recently set-up authority, but Trump’s stance has made people less familiar with its background and role in a global society ask more about it. Allow us to summarise.

Who are the WHO?

The World Health Organisation is the part of the United Nations responsible for global health, although it consists of 194 member states rather than the 193 of the UN. Its current form was established after World War II - its Constitution coming force in 1948 - when various health bodies were brought together although the idea of an international group for health dates back to the middle of the 19th century with the International Sanitary Conferences. There are now around 7,000 people working for the organisation.

What is the role of the WHO?

The organisation has three main channels of work: ‘to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.’ Universal health coverage, health emergencies and a general focus on helping people around the world to have improved health and well-being, is all part of their objective.

The current coronavirus pandemic falls under the term ‘health emergencies’ and this is what has come under scrutiny in the past few months.

The logo and building of the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
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The logo and building of the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.SALVATORE DI NOLFIEFE

How is the WHO funded?

There are two main sources of revenue for the organisation, namely, assessed and voluntary contributions.

Assessed contributions: these are calculated based on a country’s wealth and population. Compare the USA’s $115.8 million with the UK’s $9.6 million for the two-year period 2020-21.

Voluntary contributions: these can also be provided by countries as well as a number of charitable foundations. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been strong in his condemnation of Trump’s decision to withdraw funds with his own ‘Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’ being the largest non-country contributor.

Find out everything you need to know about the WHO at their own website.