Funding of the World Health Organization WHO

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COVID-19 funding and money for much of the WHO’s work comes from voluntary contributions from states, international organizations, and the private sector.

Its core budget, however, is raised from membership dues. The United States has not paid its dues to the organization for 2020, nor has it paid most of 2019’s bill. The United States paid 12.5 of the organization’s voluntary revenue in 2018. This is funding donors can choose to withhold.

Mandatory – or “assessed’ – contributions to the WHO, on the other hand, are part of a member’s obligations and cannot be indefinitely skipped. Percentages are calculated and assigned to members proportional to their national wealth. The US share is 22 percent of the annual core budget. 

Ahead of the US funding boycott, the WHO already had commitments amounting to 94 percent of its $450 million COVID-19 funding target for this year. As of 9 April, it had received $365 million (about four percent of which was from the United States), and recorded pledges for a further $61 million, including an unknown US amount. 

So Trump’s funding cut announcement would appear to have a limited impact on the WHO’s COVID-19 response in 2020, with Kuwait, Japan, and the European Commission being the largest donors. The US contribution, recorded at $14 million, puts it in seventh place as a country donor.

While the WHO should be able to weather a US funding freeze for COVID-19, its long term prospects may be of greater concern.

[The New Humanitarian]

Trump halts US funding to World Health Organization WHO

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President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is halting funding to the World Health Organization while a review is conducted. Trump said the review would cover the WHO’s “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”

Trump’s announcement comes in the middle of the worst global pandemic in decades and as he angrily defends his own handling of the outbreak in the United States. Amid swirling questions about whether he downplayed the crisis or ignored warnings from members of his administration about its potential severity, Trump has sought to assign blame elsewhere, including at the WHO and in the news media.

The US funds $400 million to $500 million to the WHO each year, Trump said, noting that China “contributes roughly $40 million.”

His decision to withdraw funding from the WHO follows a pattern of skepticism of world organizations that began well before the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has questioned US funding to the United Nations, withdrawn from global climate agreements and lambasted the World Trade Organization — claiming all were ripping off the United States.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier Tuesday that while the WHO and China “made mistakes,” Trump is also looking to deflect blame from his own administration. “Right now, there is a very coordinated effort amongst the White House and their allies to try to find scapegoats for the fatal mistakes that the President made during the early stages of this virus,” he said. Murphy added: “It is just wildly ironic that the President and his allies are now criticizing China or the WHO for being soft on China when it was in fact the President who was the chief apologist for China during the early stages of this crisis.”

Just days before Trump instituted his ban on travelers from China, he also was praising the country. On January 24, Trump tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

Tuesday’s announcement about the halting of funding came days after a major US ally — the United Kingdom — announced an additional £65 million contribution to the WHO.

[CNN]

The poor losing vital remittance payments

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Osigan Caseres lost her job as a maid and no longer sends home $300 each month to her daughters in the Philippines to buy food for her eight grandchildren.

In Somalia, Asha Mohamed Ahmed no longer receives the $400 her daughter used to provide from working at a Minneapolis hotel to cover the family’s monthly bills. And in Mexico, Rosy worries how she will afford to buy medicine for her diabetic mother without the money her brother used to send before being furloughed at an Idaho ranch.

They are all economic victims of the novel coronavirus. As hundreds of millions of people around the world grapple with job losses, business closures and lockdowns, many are no longer able to help poorer relatives in developing nations whose lives can hinge on these payments. Billions of dollars in remittances from wealthier nations to poorer ones may be vanishing, threatening the welfare of millions of families globally and the health of their countries in the months ahead, economists say.

[The Washington Post]

Twitter CEO donates $1 Billion to coronavirus relief

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Billionaire Jack Dorsey is joining a growing list of celebrities and business leaders who are using their wealth to help in the battle against coronavirus.

The 43-year-old, who is CEO of both Twitter and digital payments service Square, announced that he will be transferring $1 billion to focus on providing relief for victims of coronavirus, and then shift to girls’ health and education when the disease is finally tamed.

“I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) …to fund global COVID-19 relief,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter.

“After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and [universal basic income].”

[People]

Virus could push half a billion people into poverty

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The economic fallout from coronavirus could increase global poverty by up to half a billion, Oxfam has warned. “The economic crisis is potentially going to be even more severe than the health crisis,” said their report. It estimates a 400-600 million rise in poverty numbers globally.

Using research by the Australian National University (ANU) and Kings College, London, the charity says it will be the first time poverty has risen globally in 30 years.

The report says the potential impact of the virus poses a real challenge to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty by 2030. By the time the pandemic is over, half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty. About 40% of the new poor could be concentrated in East Asia and the Pacific, with about one third in both Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB’s chief executive, said: “For billions of workers in poor countries who were already scraping by, there are no safety nets such as sick pay or government assistance.

“Next week’s World Bank and G20 meetings are an important opportunity for world leaders to collaborate on a joint economic rescue package to protect the most vulnerable people.”

Earlier this week, more than 100 global organizations called for debt payments to be waived this year for developing countries, which would free up $25bn (£20bn) in cash to support their economies.

[BBC]

Putin sending medical supplies to help U.S. fight coronavirus

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Russia is sending the United States medical equipment to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, the Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

President Vladimir Putin made the proposal in a phone conversation with President Donald Trump on Monday.

“Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Interfax quoted Peskov as saying. A Russian plane with medical and protective equipment may leave for the United States on Tuesday, he added.

Confirmed U.S. cases have surged to nearly 180,000 with 16,000 new positive tests reported on Tuesday. For a second day in a row, the United States recorded more than 500 new deaths as the total climbed to nearly 3,600, according to a Reuters tally of officially reported data.

The state of relations between Moscow and Washington has been complicated in recent years due to U.S. sanctions on some of Russian companies in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russian support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, among other strains.

“It is important to note that when offering assistance to the U.S. colleagues, the president (Putin) assumes that when U.S. manufacturers of medical equipment and materials gain momentum, they will also be able to reciprocate if necessary,” he added.

He also said that Russia and China cooperated in a similar way now as “at a time when the current situation affects everyone without exception …, there is no alternative to working together in a spirit of partnership and mutual assistance”.

[Reuters]

Social distancing is a privilege of the middle class

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Social distancing is a privilege of the middle class. For India’s slum dwellers, it will be impossible.

For two days, Jeetender Mahender, a 36-year-old Dalit sanitation worker, has dared not leave his family’s shanty in the Valmiki slum of northern Mumbai, India, except to go to the toilet. Mahender is trying to comply with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 21-day nationwide lockdown, His situation is desperate. The tiny home has no running water or toilet, his family is low on food — and when he doesn’t go to work, he doesn’t get paid. 

Social distancing might work for India’s middle and upper classes, who can hunker down in their condos and houses, preen their terrace gardens, eat from their well-stocked pantries and even work from home, using modern technology. But for the 74 million people — one sixth of the population — who live cheek by jowl in the country’s slums, social distancing is going to be physically and economically impossible.

“The lanes are so narrow that when we cross each other, we cannot do it without our shoulders rubbing against the other person,” said Mahender. “We all go outdoors to a common toilet and there are 20 families that live just near my small house. We practically all live together. If one of us falls sick, we all will.”

In Dharavi slum in Mumbai, there is only one toilet per 1,440 residents, according to a recent CFS study — and 78% of community toilets in Mumbai’s slums lack a water supply, according to 2019 Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation survey.

Water is one of the biggest reasons India’s poor need to leave home every day. Sia, a slum dweller and migrant construction worker in Gurugram, near New Delhi, wakes up at 5 a.m. and defies the call to stay indoors. The reason? She needs to walk 100 meters (328 feet) to a water tank that serves her slum of 70 migrant construction workers. Most women from the construction site slum wash together there every morning and collect water for the day. With no showers or bathrooms in their homes, this communal tap is their only water source.

[CNN]

Locked down Indian migrants who want to go home

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As Coronavirus panic grows among India’s most vulnerable, thousands of migrant workers tried to flee the slums for their rural homes, by bus and even by foot, sparking fears they will import the virus to the countryside. 

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of India’s 45 million economic migrant workers began long, arduous journeys back to their rural villages. With India’s rail network temporarily shut, many had no choice but to try walking hundreds of miles home.

There was little reason to stay. Most had lost their jobs in the cities due to the lockdown, and the slums have the potential to feed the spread of the virus.

As the slum exodus began, on Saturday the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana arranged for hundreds of buses to ferry migrants home, causing chaotic scenes as thousands descended upon stations trying to claw their way onto buses.

On Sunday, however, Indian Prime Minister Modi urged all states to seal their borders to stop the virus being imported into rural areas. Officials are now scrambling to find millions of migrant workers who had already returned to small towns and villages across the country, in order to quarantine them for 14 days. 

Researchers from the Center For Sustainability said last week that while the reproductive ratio for Covid-19 globally is between two and three, in India’s slums it could be 20% higher due to the dense living conditions. 

[CNN]

The dilemma of migrant workers during the coronavirus lockdown

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Daily wage migrant workers generally live hand-to-mouth, earning between 138-449 Indian rupees ($1.84-$5.97) per day, according to the International Labour Organization. 

Such workers are faced with an agonizing dilemma: go out to work and risk infection, or stay home and face extreme hunger.

Some workers have no choice. Cleaners, for example, are considered to provide an essential service, and are therefore exempted from the lockdown. “Some even collect hospital waste and then come back and live in these crowded chawls (slums),” said Milind Ranade, the founder of Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh, a Mumbai-based organization focused on labor issues.

They are not given any protective gear, such as masks or gloves, said Ranade, and there has not been an awareness campaign to educate them of the dangers of coronavirus transmission. “What will happen when they fall sick?” Ranade asks.

Mahender is a cleaner for a residential community in Mumbai, earning 5,000 rupees ($66) a month, which he uses to support his wife, three children and his 78-year-old father. “The residents of the building where I clean have been calling me back to work,” he said. “But I have to go into the building, outside each person’s house and collect their trash. I have not been given a mask or gloves, not even a soap to wash my hands before my meals. But I know if I don’t go today, they will hire someone else?” 

As of today, India had conducted 34,931 tests, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research — or 19 tests per million people.

[CNN]

The capacity for innovation in Africa and the Indian Subcontinent

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South Africa put its 57 million citizens into lockdown starting Thursday evening as cases there grew to 709 — the highest of any nation on that continent. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed police and the military to enforce the measure.

The West African nation of Senegal — which was among the countries hit by the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak — also declared a state of emergency earlier this week and imposed a curfew after more than 80 cases of the coronavirus were confirmed.

“The rapid evolution of COVID-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization‘s regional director for Africa, said. “We can still change the course of this pandemic,” she added, but said that “governments must draw on all their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.”

“The need of the hour as countries like India … and now parts of Africa enter a lockdown phase is to consider these kinds of scenarios and maybe build temporary quarantine facilities for those living in shantytowns,” said Dr. Priya Balasubramaniam, a senior public health scientist for the Public Health Foundation of India.

There is a silver lining to the emergency, Balasubramaniam added. How these countries ultimately cope with the pandemic could be a lesson to the rest of the world. Already, many low-income countries experiment using technology and community health workers to improve access to health care where there had been none.

“There is a lot of capacity for innovation in these countries,” she said.

[Reuters/NBC News]