WHO in ‘imminent danger’ due to funding shortage: Top expert

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is facing a critical funding shortage, which is impeding its urgent operations and putting the UN body in “imminent danger” amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to its top emergency expert.

“The funding shortfall of more than 70% when only received funds are considered has left the organization in real imminent danger of being unable to sustain core functions for urgent priorities,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the health emergencies program at WHO, told the annual assembly of health ministers on Tuesday.

He renewed the WHO's appeal in February for $1.96 billion for 2021 to fund its global pandemic response.

“[The] underfunding and earmarking of funds risks paralyzing WHO's ability to provide rapid and flexible support to countries and is already having consequences for current operations,” the expert added.

The WHO had to suspend its crucial aid to about 10,000 healthcare workers across conflict-hit Yemen in November last year because of a “financial gap.”

“Due to an unprecedented financial gap, WHO & health partners have been unable to continue their financial support to the health care workforce in Yemen. Up to 10K health workers are affected,” the WHO's Yemen office tweeted at the time.

In April 2020, the administration of former US President Donald Trump moved to withhold $400 million in financial aid from the WHO, accusing it of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic and being too trusting of China.

However, the Joe Biden administration has resumed working with the UN organization.

The WHO’s funding shortfalls come amid widespread reports that wealthier countries, including the United States, are hoarding millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, a practice that international health experts say is undermining the global response to the pandemic.  

Amnesty International condemned wealthier countries last month for failing a “rudimentary” test of global unity by stockpiling vaccines.

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