The costs of responding to coronavirus are challenging healthcare systems and governments in some of the world’s richest countries. In poorer countries and war zones, as well as host countries for refugees and other people on the move, the costs could be overwhelming.
In the most vulnerable countries, where public healthcare is weak at the best of times, adding to public debt is not an attractive solution. The numbers that really matter are for grants – to governments, aid groups, or service providers. Aid funding can pay for more staff, treatment facilities, drugs, and protective equipment.
Some of that money will have to be redirected from existing pots of funding: for example in Afghanistan, a contingency fund managed by the UN has allocated $1.5 million for corona preparedness. The Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria – a large multi-donor aid pool – will allow some funds to be redirected to coronavirus. The UN’s global emergency response fund, the CERF, has put up $15 million. Aid budgets may have to be adjusted in the coming months more radically as the pandemic evolves, potentially diverting spending from other priorities.
It’s likely to become a major area of international aid spending.
The WHO had, as of 1 February, estimated new global spending requirements of $675 million for three months of “priority public health measures”, uses a three-step process:
- It ranks 194 countries on five elements of preparedness and response needs: community transmission, localized transmission, imported cases, high risk of imported cases, preparedness.
- On average, it proposes a country would need roughly $65 million in extra expenditure.
- Then, the document tabulates the amount of foreign aid needed proportional to the country’s readiness: “category 5” countries would need 100 percent of the spending package and “category 1” countries can look after themselves.
As for its own role, the biggest donors to the WHO are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US and UK governments – all three paying over $7 million.
[The New Humanitarian]