The World Health Organization is seeking to mobilize $675 million through April to support COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts around the world. So far, governments are the key contributors to this effort. But today, WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced a new fundraising platform, the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, to mobilize contributions from philanthropies, corporations and even individuals.
“Until now, we had been relying mainly on governments to support the response. We thank all those countries who have supported our plan,” said Dr. Tedros in a WHO press conference. “Now, everyone can contribute.” Tedros says that funds raised will be used to coordinate the response, including to buy masks, gowns, and invest in all aspects of pandemic response. “Every dollar donated is a dollar towards saving lives,” adding that major companies like Google and Facebook and many individuals have already contributed.
The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund is a first-of-its-kind platform for the private sector to support global efforts to contain and mitigate an ongoing pandemic.
The WHO does not have a way to directly solicit individual donations on its own, so it has partnered with two non-profits: the US-based United Nations Foundation and in Europe, the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. Individuals who want to support the international coronavirus response can make donations through covid19responsefund.org, which is managed by the United Nations Foundation, a 501c(3), meaning contributions to it are tax deductible in the United States.
Funds that are raised are contributed towards the WHO’s $675 million global response plan. “Local effort to slow the spread of this virus are vital, but they will not be enough on their own,” says Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “Giving to this fund now will help the WHO and their partners do the essential public health work that they need to do to mitigate further spread and reduce its impact on communities worldwide.”
A key focus of the WHO’s preparedness and response efforts which these funds will support are focused on preventing the virus from taking hold in places where local health systems are weak. This includes countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere where clusters of infections could quickly overwhelm local capacity to respond.
“One of the major actions is making sure that countries are prepared for and can respond to Covid-19, says Scott Pendergast the Director for Strategic Planning, WHO Emergencies Programme. “This includes putting place coordination mechanisms at the country level, ensuring there is broad community engagement and risk communication, making sure there is surveillance and case investigations capabilities; that the laboratory systems are in place in order to be able to diagnose cases, that there is proper infection prevention and control in all health facilities to stop the spread of this disease, that there are intensive care units available to countries so their most severe cases can be treated and there is support for operations logistics and supplies.”
All this, of course, costs money. So far, governments have contributed about $102 million towards the WHO’s $675 million call to action. But those funding needs are sure to increase in the coming days and weeks, and the private sector is going to need to step up in a big way.
Contributing to the global response is not just a form of charity, but enlightened self-interest. So long as COVID-19 is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to individuals and economies everywhere.