COVID-19: WHO has only $1.2 mln to fight outbreak

More international economic groups confirmed initial assessments that  China's economy is going to dip because of the COVID-19 outbreak  

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Friday 21 February 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on February 20, 2020 complained of a funds crunch to manage the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The United Nations (UN) health body sought $675 million for containing the outbreak and long-term research, $61.5 million of which was urgently required. It, however, received only 2 per cent, or $1.2 million, of that, it said.

Ireland, WHO’s biggest donor, contributed $520,000. Non-profit Resolve to Save Lives ($500,000) and Slovakia ($220,000) were the second- and third-biggest donors. 

According to WHO’s last updated information, a few countries and non-profit groups pledged to donate $26 million for the emergency fund.

Some of these donors include Canada ($2 million), Japan ($10 million), UK ($6.46 million) and Norway ($1.07 million).

However the pledges, for which the countries gave no timeline, would account for less than half of the emergency fund. WHO would thus face a funding gap of 55.7 per cent for urgent preparedness.

“We will give the breakup of the pledged funds, once we receive the donations,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told Down To Earth.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to donate $100 million to WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of which they have already given $10 million. 

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was explicit about his disappointment with the global community. “The response has been surprising. This is what we had not expected,” he said.

WHO had released a Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 on February 3, 2019 and asked for $675 million.  

According to this plan, it needed funding for three components: Rapidly establishing international coordination and operations support ($30 million), scaling up country preparedness and response operations ($640 million) and accelerating research and innovation for vaccines and therapeutics ($4 million). 

“I had said in the very beginning that the virus is currently public enemy number one. But it is not being treated as such. We can take solace in the fact that cases outside mainland China are very less as compared to the country but it does not mean that the number would remain so. We might face a serious problem if we don’t act now,” he said.

WHO also faced allegations of corruption.

The UN health body had 148 cases of fraud and harassment, an increase of 82 per cent, compared to 2019, according to an ABC News investigation quoting audit reports and internal risk assessment documents. More than half of these cases were related to fraud.

Global economy to suffer

Several estimates predicted the Chinese economy would take a beating due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The economic growth of the world's most populous country will be affected for the first three months of 2020 even if disruptions due to the outbreak end soon, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva wrote in her blog. The impact on the whole year may be less severe though. 

“Its global impact would be amplified through more substantial supply chain disruptions and a more persistent drop in investor confidence, especially if the epidemic spreads beyond China,” Georgieva said. 

Oxford Economics cut China's gross domestic product growth forecast for 2020 by 0.6 percentage points to 5.4 per cent. “The disruption to China will clearly be significant in the first quarter (Q1). Even though growth there will rebound in Q2 and Q3, it will take time for the loss in activity to be fully recovered,” according to an assessment by the economic consultancy.

As a result, it lowered its global GDP growth forecast for the year to 2.3 per cent from 2.5 per cent. Global GDP grew 2.6 per cent in 2019.

The economic impact from the outbreak will be the most in 39 Asia-Pacific countries, including India. It will exacerbate an ongoing slowdown in the United States of America and may also weigh down Eurozone’s economy.

The total number of global cases from the virus outbreak increased to 76,792; 2,247 deaths have been reported so far, with five of these having occurred outside China.

Iran is the latest country to be impacted by COVID-19, with five reported cases including two deaths.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.