Who Funds the World Health Organization? Trump Freeze Could Leave Huge Hole in Budget

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would freeze funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), accusing the United Nations body of a role in "severely mismanaging and covering up" the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The president first threatened the move last week, accusing the independent body of facilitating an alleged Chinese cover-up of the origins, extent, and severity of the coronavirus pandemic that has now swept the globe. Trump's critics have framed his attacks against the WHO as an attempt to deflect attention from his own handling of the crisis.

Trump said funding would be held for 60 to 90 days "to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus."

The U.S. was by far the largest single contributor to the WHO 2018-19 biennial budget, comprising roughly 15 percent of the organization's total funding at around $893 million, according to the organization's website.

Contributions are split into two types: Assessed, which are effectively membership fees calculated on wealth and population, and voluntary. For the U.S., the majority of funding, or about $656 million, is voluntary. Before the pandemic, the Trump administration proposed to cut $65 million in funding for the WHO in 2021.

To lose such a large proportion of funding during an ongoing pandemic is a major threat to WHO operation, and could undermine its ability to guard against future pandemics if the freeze is made permanent or the U.S. contribution cut.

Trump has accused the WHO of being too China-centric, though noted Beijing gives far less to the body's budget than Washington, D.C. In 2018-19, China's contribution was around $86 million, or roughly a quarter of one percent all contributions made to the WHO that period.

The second largest contributor to the WHO budget is not even a nation state, but rather is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization accounts for roughly 10 percent of the WHO's funding at around $531 million. Third is the GAVI vaccine alliance, also supported by the Gates, which contributes more than $370 million.

Several of the next largest national contributors are European: the U.K. provides 7.79 percent of the WHO budget and Germany 5.68 percent, while the European Commission provides 3.3 percent. Japan covers 2.76 percent of the organization's 2018-19 budget.

Other United Nations bodies such as the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (5.09 percent) and the World Bank (3.42 percent) add to the total contributions. Prominent additional NGO contributors include Rotary International at 3.3 percent and the National Philanthropic Trust at 2.34 percent.

World Health Organization, funding, coronavirus, Donald Trump
The logo of the World Health Organization is pictured on the facade of its headquarters on October 24, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty