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More donors can absorb ‘shock’ of any US cuts: new WHO boss

The World Health Organization should expand its donor base to better withstand the “shock” from planned deep budget cuts in Washington, Tedros Adhanom, the newly elected agency head, said Wednesday.

A day after he became the first African to head the WHO, the former Ethiopian health minister told reporters in Geneva he had been in touch with many countries willing to help fill the gap if the United States slashes funding.

US President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request, presented Tuesday, calls for substantial cuts in contributions to international organisations from Washington, which has long been the UN’s biggest financial backer.

Tedros said he was still hopeful he could convince the US authorities to maintain their level of funding.

“I don’t take it as a closed issue, and I will continue to engage,” he said, stressing the need to ensure that WHO’s programmes can continue even if funding from the organisation’s main donor subsides.

“The solution now is … we need to expand the donor base,” Tedros said, adding that “there are countries that are willing to contribute.”

“If we have as many countries as possible that can contribute … any amount, I think that will help,” he added.

Tedros said that the situation for organisations that rely heavily on a few traditional donors were in the same precarious situation as heavily oil-dependent economies.

“Their revenue base is really narrow, and then the shock is serious when oil prices go down.

Just as such countries need to expand their revenue base, WHO should also widen its income sources, he argued.

“By expanding the donor base, we help health financing to have a kind of shock absorber,” he said.