WHO in times of pandemic

Published by Kumar Ankit on

WHO in times of pandemic

Table of Contents


The World Health Organisation is a specialized agency of United Nations responsible for international public health. The WHO constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structures and principles, states its main objective ensuring as providing the best healthcare facilities and needs  to the people globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, with the idealism and ambition that marked the creation of the United Nations system as a whole. The idealism was apparent in its objective and the ambition in the 22 wide-ranging functions defined in its constitution, of which the first was ‘to act as the directing and co-ordinating authority on international health work. The WHO was established on 7th April, 1948, which is now commemorated as ‘World Health Day’. The first meeting of world health agency took place on 24th July, 1948. Much has changed since then i.e. 1948 in the world at large and in that of public health. The global economy and technical capacity have expanded beyond what one would have imagined in addition to the political landscape of the world.  But beyond all this, world, including the global health community has struggled with how to address the threats that are at the front regarding global health. Much has changed in the global health, while much has changed in the global health, much has remained unaltered. Since the establishment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, the world has made some remarkable development in achieving goals of better health, although not all the MDG health-related targets will be achieved.

The WHO’s principle stands for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, co-ordinating with health agencies and promote well being of human health. The WHO’s broad mandate includes striving for universal health care, monitoring public health risks, co-ordinating responses to health emergencies and promoting human health and well-being. It provides technical assistance to countries sets international health standards and guidelines and collects data on global health issues through the world health surveys. The institution’s official publication World Health Report provides expert assessment of global health topics and health statistics across all nations. The WHO also serves as a forum for summits and discussions on global health issues.

Upto now WHO has been quite successful in the eradication of many diseases that has been grappling mankind in its clutches like Small Pox, Polio (almost) and most recently the development of Ebola vaccine. The WHO comprises of representatives from all 194 member states that acts as agency’s supreme decision making body. The WHO through its World Health Assembly (WHA) sits annually and elects its director-general for 5 years, setting goals and priorities and approving the WHO’s budget and activities.

Functions of WHO:

The working group’s consideration of WHO’s role was influenced by a framework proposed in the year 1998 as a means of analysing the functions that an international health body should perform. The core function of WHO are those which relate to necessary areas of collective action that individual nation states could not carry alone. These have the nature of what we call now global public goods that would otherwise be undersupplied. The WHO’s constitution states its objective as the “attainment by all the people of the highest possible level of health.’’

The WHO fulfils this objective through its functions as defined in its constitution, which are as follows:[1]

  • 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.
  • To provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the United Nations, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the peoples of trust territories.
  • To establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required, including epidemiological and statistical services.
  • To stimulate and advance work to eradicate epidemic, endemic and other diseases.
  • To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the prevention of accidental injuries.
  • To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene.
  • To promote co-operation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health.
  • To propose conventions, agreements and regulations, and make recommendations with respect to international health matters and to perform.

Also as far as role of WHO is concerned, it has defined its role in public health as follows:

  • Providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed.
  • Shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation, and dissemination of valuable knowledge.
  • Setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation.
  • Articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options.
  • Providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity.
  • Monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends.

CRVS (civil registration and vital statistics) to provide monitoring of vital events (birth, death, wedding, divorce).

Funding of WHO and its types:

The WHO is financed by the contributions from member states and outside donors. As of the year 2020, United States of America is the biggest contributor giving nearly $400 Million annually. If we dig the past, we could see that at the beginning of the 21st century WHO’s work involved increasing collaboration with external bodies. Upto the starting of the 2000’s atleast 472 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) were having partnership with this global body in any form out of which 189 were formal in nature and rest being informal one with major ones such as ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’ and ‘Rockfeller Foundation’. Upto the year 2012, largest annual assessed contributions from member states came from United States ($110 Million), Japan ($58 Million), Germany ($37 Million), United Kingdom ($ 31 Million) and France ($31 Million).  The combined 2012–2013 budget proposed a total expenditure of $3,959 million, of which $944 million (24%) will come from assessed contributions. In fact the assessed contributions of the WHO generally amounted between one-third and two-thirds of the total budget. From 1951 onwards the WHO became the beneficiary of allocation of expanded programmes of technical assistance and special fund, programmes set up by UN to fund the specialized agencies of the UN such as WHO. Activities funded by voluntary contributions are determined in negotiations between the WHO secretariat and the funder. By 1967, even with assessed contributions rising rapidly as the WHO’s membership expanded, they still financed only two-thirds of WHO expenditure. The main sources of revenue for the WHO is different types of charity and donations it receives from member countries and NGO’s. Also it receives funds from different other sources such as individual donors and not to forget the money that is allocated by the United Nations for its different agencies to carry out the objectives of their establishment.

How does funding affect the policy making process of WHO?

It is a common thing that to carry out the working of any organisation, money is required and larger the objective of the organisation, larger sum of money is required. In the case of WHO also, it requires a handsome amount of money to carry out its operations but the question is how does an institution of this much importance carry out its operations if the funding or say it more precisely the money is not present with them? The answer to this question could be that WHO gets its fund from various sources, like, donations from NGO’s, funds received from member countries and the money given by the United Nations as part of their institutional money allocated. It is obvious that the amount of money received decides how and what activities are to be taken by the WHO, so the funding of WHO affects its policy making process. But there is a very less probability that due to the dearth of money the WHO will not be able to carry out the activities for which it has been established. This is so because if WHO is not able to garner funds from one source then the other source comes into play and thus it never fails to achieve the required funds for its operation. But it is a true fact that the funding of the WHO affects its policy making process.

US threatens to freeze its funding to WHO.

In a recent development US president Donald Trump has threatened to put a “very powerful” hold on US’ funding to the World Health Organization, accusing the UN agency of being “very China centric” and criticising it for having “missed the call” in its response to the corona virus pandemic.[2] Trump slammed the global health agency for its early guidance aimed at countering the international spread of the corona virus. “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works. But when they call every shot wrong, that’s no good,” According to WHO, US, which is its biggest contributor, provided $58 Million to the global organisation which is double the Chinese contribution.

The WHO in mid-January had said that there is no evidence of the human to human transmission of this disease though one of its own experts was having a contradictory view. Days later it pointed to some direct transmission among humans, as China confirmed its first case of human to human transmission. Later that month WHO described this virus as a global emergency and later on USA banned most travel from China.

Significance of this development

Now imagine a scenario where United States have stopped all of its funding to WHO and not to forget that USA is one of the biggest funding nation for WHO and the time in which we are living i.e. Corona pandemic that will be a dangerous situation as there is a need for quick response to this virus attack in the form of Vaccination, Medicines, Ventilators and other medical protection kits that would be required by the health professionals across the world and this could not be done alone as it is an uphill task for a single country or a single institution. So the countries across the world in collaboration with global institutions need to work out as to evade this dangerous situation or else world could see itself getting destroyed in this pandemic due to audacity and carelessness of some of the nations and institutions


WHO is one of the prime institutions that is accountable to provide a better healthcare scenario for the world. For achieving this objective all the countries of the world have fought together in collaboration with WHO. The recent outbreak of the Corona virus in almost every country of the world is a testing time for not only WHO but also for the entire mankind and this could only be sorted out after working together not by playing blame game which is being done by some of the countries on the pretext of finding out the truth, as truth could be found out later but first there is a need to fight out this pandemic.

[1] http:// www.wikipedia.com/terms/i.asp (last visited on April 19, 2020)

[2] https://www.financialexpress.com/world-news/covid-19-donald-trump-threatens-to-freeze-who-funding-accuses-it-of-being-china-centric (Last visited on April 21 2020)

Kumar Ankit

My name is Kumar Ankit and I am currently enrolled in Central University of South Bihar, Gaya in Integrated B.A. LL.B(H) – 5 Year course. My interest areas include recent legal developments happening in and around the world and I like to express my views having a neutral perspective and I aspire to help in every possible way the vulnerable sections of the society through my works.

Kumar Ankit

My name is Kumar Ankit and I am currently enrolled in Central University of South Bihar, Gaya in Integrated B.A. LL.B(H) - 5 Year course. My interest areas include recent legal developments happening in and around the world and I like to express my views having a neutral perspective and I aspire to help in every possible way the vulnerable sections of the society through my works.


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