By Chris Bishop
In the eye of the COVID-19 pandemic The African regional director for the World Health Organisation Matshidiso Moeti admitted that any hold on US money would hamper efforts to protect the health of Africans in these difficult times, but hopes common sense will prevail.
President Trump said he would put a hold on US funding of the WHO in apparent retaliation for what he implied was poor advice from the organisation over COVID-19.
“They called it wrong,” he said, adding: “They really, they missed the call. Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
On US financial contributions to the WHO, he said: “We’re going to put a hold on money spent… we’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.”
In its weekly briefing on Africa, journalists asked how it could affect operations in Africa.
“The USA is among the top five financial donors to WHO, so they play a very important role and they enable us to do our work. If that decision is made it would severely impact our work here in Africa,” says Moeti.
“I can only emphasise what has been said already. It is a question of international solidarity, this virus impacts on people around the world. We hope we can carry on with our work.”
So who does pay the bills for WHO?
According to the website Reality Check, run by BBC News: “The WHO relies on funding from both government and private sources. Its funding is also split into mandatory and voluntary contributions, with the last one becoming increasingly important over the years.
In the last financial year, more than 80% of WHO funds came from voluntary contributions made by governments, private organisations like charities, and other UN agencies as well as multilateral bodies like the EU.
The US government is the largest of these voluntary contributors, accounting for just under 15% of WHO funding in 2019. But the next biggest was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, making up nearly 10% of funding.
Other countries which made significant voluntary contributions in 2019 include the UK (7.8%) and Germany (5.7%). It is worth adding that the US also owes the WHO most in terms of mandatory contributions. Figures for March 2020 show that the US still had more than $99m (£80m) in outstanding payments, much more than anyone else.
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