WHAT IT IS
- The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded in 1948 as "the directing and coordinating authority on international health." [World Health Organization]
- The WHO's guiding principle is "that all people should enjoy the highest standard of health, regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition." [World Health Organization]
- Read the WHO's Constitution here.
- The WHO is apart of the United Nations (UN). [Encylopedia Britannica]
- The WHO has 194 Member States and is governed by the Health Assembly. [BBC], [World Health Organization]
- The Health Assembly consists of representatives from Member States and determines the policies of the Organization. [World Health Organization]
- Member States are elected for 3-year terms. [World Health Organization]
- Member States pay fees based on the country's wealth and population. Some contribute additional donations. [NPR]
- The WHO Executive Board is 34 highly qualified members of the medical community. The Board provides recommendations for decisions and policies of the Health Assembly. [World Health Organization]
WHY IT MATTERS
CIVICS: The United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 as a response to World War II. The goal of the UN is to unify populations, restore international peace, and ensure global security. It is based on respect for the principles of equal rights. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
SOCIAL: The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how the world is interconnected. The WHO is designed to be a central coordinator that guides containment efforts, declares emergencies, and makes recommendations. [The New York Times]
The World Health Organization (WHO) does the following:
- Prevention and control of epidemics,
- Improvement of laboratory and clinical facilities,
- Helps set up local health centers,
- Assistance in providing pure-water supplies and sanitation systems,
- Awards leaders in the medical field, and
- Encourages and strengthens the expansion of health administrations of Member States.
Research and Education
- Distributes information to medical providers on use of antibiotics and insecticides,
- Offers aid in the development of national training institutions for medical and nursing personnel,
- Sends out international teams of experts to conduct field surveys,
- Issues international travel advisories,
- Supports childhood nutrition and promotion of vaccines,
- Provides health education for people living in rural communities,
- and does demonstration projects with Member States.
WHO DOES NOT
The WHO has no legal or military authority to enforce or mandate policy.
They provide recommendations to world leaders and medical providers based on research and science.
Member States and other countries following WHO policy could be viewed as "discretionary" or optional.
Under the WHO Constitution,
- "The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition."
The WHO rarely involves itself in Member State politics.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said
- "Please don't politicize this virus" and that
- "The focus of all political parties should be to save their people." [NPR]
Jan. 30: Declared the coronavirus outbreak "a public health emergency of international concern," [World Health Organization]
- The WHO provided ongoing technical guidance for governments and health workers on how to care for COVID-19 patients in medical settings. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
- The WHO provided guidance and education to the public on how to protect themselves, including when to start and when end lockdowns. [NPR]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
- Apr. 14, 2020: President Trump declared the U.S. would stop funding the WHO, due to his opinion on their handling of the pandemic. [The White House] [Associated Press]
- 2018-2019: The U.S. pledged to contribute over $800 million to the $5.6 billion WHO budget. [NPR]
- President Trump believes the WHO “failed in its basic duty” and is too "China-centric." [TIME]
- Leaders worldwide have publically disagreed with President Trump's decision and timing. [NPR]
- July 7, 2020: The U.S. officially filed notice of withdrawal from the World Health Organization. [Aljazeera]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- May 1980: Smallpox was globally eradicated, an accomplishment largely because of the efforts of WHO. [Encylopedia Britannica]
- The exact date of WHO founding is now World Health Day, April 7. [World Health Organization]
- Bill and Melinda Gates are the second-largest contributors to the WHO, behind the United States. Bill Gates has criticized President Trump's decision, saying "the world needs WHO now more than ever." [Buinsess Insider]
- What would the world be like without the WHO?
- Defunding goes against the Trump administration's pandemic preparedness plan drafted in 2017, which advocates for “expanded international coordination on pandemic preparedness and response" and specifically calls for "continued support” for WHO. [Politico]