- The World Health Organization’s member countries have voted to increase their membership fees by 20%, resulting in a record $6.83 billion budget for the next year.
- The decision comes amid criticisms of the W.H.O.’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a sexual abuse scandal in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The funds are set to be invested in global universal healthcare coverage, scientific medical development, and climate crisis efforts.
- The organization currently depends heavily on voluntary contributions, with member states’ fees making up a small percentage of the total funding.
- Despite formally ending the coronavirus emergency, W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of potential future pandemics and the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
Member countries of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) have unanimously voted to raise their membership fees by 20%, culminating in an unprecedented budget of $6.83 billion for the upcoming year.
The decision was reached during the World Health Assembly, the W.H.O.’s annual decision-making and planning forum.
This record budget allocation comes amidst a tumultuous tenure for Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has faced criticism over his handling of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and a severe sexual abuse scandal within the organization.
The priority for the 2024 budget, as agreed by the W.H.O. leaders, is the eradication of polio – the only remaining public health emergency of international concern following the declassification of the coronavirus and monkeypox emergencies.
Further, the organization plans to contribute towards the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, aimed at tackling the “climate crisis.”
Despite a significant part of the W.H.O.’s funding coming from voluntary contributions, member states’ fees have dwindled over time.
The current budget stipulates that only 14% of the organization’s funding is entirely flexible and predictable, while the remaining resources are dependent on donors and are often heavily earmarked.
In addition to the standard funding, nearly 10% of the W.H.O.’s funds are contributed by philanthropic foundations, predominantly the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The increase in membership fees, however, will be directed towards global universal healthcare coverage, investments in scientific medical development, enhancing general health and well-being, and providing support to countries in the face of medical emergencies.
W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus justified the call for additional funding despite formally ending the coronavirus emergency, warning of the potential for new, possibly deadlier, pandemics.
“When the next pandemic comes knocking – and it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively, and equitably,” Tedros said.
He stressed the need for an effective health emergency preparedness and response mechanism to address various crises.
Despite the increased budget, some W.H.O. officials have voiced concern over widening funding and staffing gaps in the face of ever-growing demands.
Climate change is reportedly adding to the list of emergencies by intensifying the frequency and severity of natural disasters.
The vote for increased membership fees underscores the challenges and controversies the organization faces, prompting a need for more accountability and transparency in its operations.