Via ForeignPolicy.com, another excellent article by Laurie Garrett: WHO’s Fairy Dust Financing. Excerpt from a must-read:
WHO is governed by its World Health Assembly, which convenes at this time every year in Geneva to debate a laundry list of resolutions aimed at improving the survival and health of billions of people. One key resolution the assembly has refused, for nearly four decades, to bring to the floor for debate or vote is money — how much individual nations must pay in annual assessment to support WHO.
The assessments, which are based on national GDP and population, fairly place the greatest burden on the wealthiest countries, with the United States paying the most. But because the assembly has declined to even entertain an increase in annual assessment rates for nearly four decades, when adjusted for inflation, the WHO core budget has steadily declined.
For years, the drop in core funding for WHO has been offset by so-called voluntary contributions — extra-budgetary funds provided by wealthy nations and organizations now exceeding the agency’s core budget by 75 percent. Combined, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. government account for 23 percent of WHO’s total core and voluntary budget, which amounts to $4.4 billion for 2016 and 2017.
Members of the assembly have long complained about the disproportionate influence Americans have on WHO but have been unwilling to provide a financing mechanism for the institution that spreads the pain more broadly. In its current gathering in Geneva, the assembly is continuing this woeful pattern, trying to block nasty American meddling in global health affairs, while refusing to entertain any other mechanism for generating billions of dollars a year for WHO.
Worse, for the last two years, the assembly has added the equivalent of fairy dust to the mix, voting for budget increases but then leaving it up to Director-General Margaret Chan to mysteriously conjure up the agreed-upon additions. In 2015, the assembly, stunned by performance failures in the West African Ebola epidemic, approved the creation of a $100 million special WHO fund for combating outbreaks — but left it up to Chan to find those millions of dollars. She was able to cobble together about 30 percent of the money and hopes someday to find the remainder.
On Feb. 1 of this year, Chan declared a public health emergency of international concern over the widening Zika crisis and said WHO needed $25 million to fight the mosquito-borne disease. More fairy dust: No donors stepped up to sprinkle real cash on the Zika crisis, so Chan moved $3.8 million out of her not-yet-fully-funded “$100 million” epidemic fund into a new “$25 million” Zika account.
So global health, affecting the lives and wellbeing of billions, is essentially dependent on the economic policy best enunciated by Charles Dickens's Mr. Micawber: "Something will turn up."