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Nearly 40% of the money raised by the WHO Foundation in its first two years came from anonymous sources, worrying some that donors may be trying to influence the World Health Organization and its role in shaping global health policy with their gifts.
The foundation, launched in 2020 to help raise private sector funds for the WHO, said it received $66 million in direct gifts through 2022, with $26 million coming from donors who chose not to be publicly named. Anil Soni, WHO Foundation CEO, told The Associated Press the foundation’s board, which includes a representative from the WHO, knows the donors’ identities and that the foundation will not accept a gift if there is a conflict of interest.
“They want to be anonymous because they’re otherwise solicited or even targeted because they’re seen to be a source of wealth,” Soni said in an interview. “And I respect that.”
Some global health practitioners worry anonymous donations make it harder to spot potential conflicts of interest. They say companies may donate to the foundation to influence the WHO’s global health policies and reports that often have wide-ranging ramifications. For example, food and beverage companies took note when two branches of the WHO found that the sweetener aspartame — used in diet soda and countless foods — may be a “possible” cause of cancer.
“For the integrity of the WHO, I think it’s really important that there’s some greater transparency around this,” said Sophie Harman, professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London, of the anonymous donations, which include a single anonymous gift of $20 million to the foundation’s operating expenses.
Private and philanthropic funding has long supported other large global health organizations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but Harman said the WHO has stood out as the publicly funded body that also sets standards across all areas of health.
The bulk of the WHO’s funding comes from governments. But in 2020, with the onslaught of the pandemic and then-President Donald Trump’s move to withdraw from the WHO, many hoped the WHO Foundation might generate new financing from wealthy individuals, the private sector and public fundraising campaigns.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.