What Happens When Leadership Fails?By Miriam Bello | Tue, 05/19/2020 - 13:14
The US has finished its investigation regarding WHO’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 18, in a letter sent to Tedros Adhamon, Director General of the organization, President Trump accused them of ignoring “credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier.” It goes on saying that WHO failed to investigate reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.
Back in April, Trump had declared the US would be cutting funding to WHO. After the investigation, this decision could be permanent. While many political controversies and conspiracies regarding fight for global power arise, it is important to recall what WHO does and the real impact of the US funding on healthcare.
The fact is that the US was the major contributor to WHO by far (US$893 million), representing 20 percent of the organization’s total budget. In second and third place are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (US$531 million) and the UK (US$392 million). The impact of cutting US funding will not just affect COVID-19-related programs, but it will also heavily impact others. The following graph shows the projects that received money from the US and the amount of money used in a two-year cycle.
These projects are essential for global healthcare as they respond to emergencies in most cases. According to WHO data, in Mexico, programmes such as neglected tropical diseases, malaria and noncommunical diseases depend on US funding in 16.78 percent of their total.
Mike Ryan, WHO’s Executive Director of Health Emergencies has said that a quarter of US funds were planned to be allocated to core health programs, which was a major cause of concern because right now, global efforts are focused on the COVID-19 response so budget cannot come from other sources.
On a report made by BBC, experts show how this measure could be life threatening to Latin America, specially regarding diseases such as measles and tuberculosis. However, this region does not depend much on the funding compared to healthcare systems that would collapse without it, which is the case of many countries in Africa and the mediterranian region. The latter depends 36 percent on US funding, receiving US$201 million of the contributions. Africa, in second place, recives US$151 million for WHO’s health programs.
Many analysts have said that the US isolating from WHO during this critical times only weakens its leadership position in the world and it inhibits progress and success in terms of a global response to the virus. Additionally, WHO has asked countries to stop politicizing the pandemic as decisions taken during this time will surely affect other ecomonmies and have a long-term impact that can be fatal. Director General Tedros Adhamon has called for the US and China to come together and fight this dangerous enemy.
Due to this radical change, WHO will need to reform its future actions, allocate budgets differently and reorganize programmes, but this still depends on approval of many countries that include China, the US and many developing countries that depend on WHO’s assistance to bring medical attention to their population.