World Health organization: A Fact Sheet
CRS Report for Congress
World Health Organization: A Fact Sheet
Analyst in International Relations
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division
The World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1948, is the U.N. System's
authority on international public health issues. It assists governments in improving
national health services and in establishing worldwide standards for foods, chemicals, and
biological and pharmaceutical products. WHO concentrates on preventive rather than
curative programs, including efforts to eradicate endemic and other widespread diseases,
stabilize population growth, improve nutrition, sanitation, and maternal and child care.
WHO works through contracts with other agencies and private voluntary organizations.
The United States has been a member of WHO since 1948. As part of the Foreign
Relations Authorization Act of 1994-1995, Congress directed the Administration to
monitor the activities of the WHO to ensure timely implementation of budget reform
measures and the efficient and effective use of resources for reduction of diseases and
disabilities in developing countries.1 The Administration is requesting a contribution of
$107.4 million for FY1997.
Organization. The WHO policy making body is the World Health Assembly,
composed of all 190 member states. It meets annually in May to decide the overall
direction of the Organization and the general program for a specific period, and to adopt
the two year budget. (The 1996-97 budget is $842.7 million.) Decisions are made by
majority vote, except for decisions on the budget that require a two-thirds vote. There is
no veto. The Assembly elects the Director General as well as the 32 member states who
designate persons to serve on the Executive Board. The Executive Board meets twice a
year to review the work of WHO in more detail and prepares issues for consideration by
the Assembly. Ten to twelve members are replaced every year. The United States has a
member on the Executive Board three out of every four years.
The Director-General is Hiroshi Nakajima of Japan, who was re-elected for a five-
year term in 1993. The Agency's headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland, with a
Washington office located at 1775 K St. (202-331-9081). Unlike most U.N.
organizations, WHO has six regional offices where most WHO programs are
1 For further information, see United States Participation in the United Nations. Report by the
President to the Congress for the year 1994. Department of State Publication 10267. August
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
implemented at the direction of members of that region. The Pan American Health
Organization (202-861-3198) is the regional office for the Americas.
Major WHO Programs of Interest to Congress.
!Child Survival Revolution--begun in 1982 by WHO and UNICEF to increase the
use of inexpensive medical interventions to save the lives of millions of children
in the poorest countries. Activities included using growth charts to recognize
malnutrition, oral rehydration treatment for dehydration caused by diarrheal
disease, breast feeding of infants, and immunization against common childhood
!Expanded Program on Immunization--begun in 1980 to make vaccinations
available to all children against the six major childhood diseases: tuberculosis,
whooping cough, polio, measles, diphtheria, and tetanus. By 1990, 66 developing
countries had reached the goal of immunizing 80% of a nation's children against
!Division of Emerging and Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control--
begun in October 1995 to strengthen national and international response to new,
emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases and related health problems,
including antibiotic resistance.
!Disease eradication efforts--the eradication of small pox by 1979 is considered
a major WHO success. Eradication of guineaworm disease has nearly been
achieved, and the global effort to eliminate leprosy is in its last stage. Polio has
been eradicated in the Americas.
Finances. WHO's budget, maintained on a calendar year cycle, is the largest of the
U.N. Specialized Agencies. The U.S. share of 25% is approved by Congress in the State
Department authorization and appropriation legislation. For example, the U.S.
contribution of $97.3 million in FY1996 will pay for the 1995 WHO budget. Shortfalls
in appropriations will leave the United States in arrears (with unpaid debts) to the WHO
of $19.95 million after the FY1996 payment is made this summer. The United States will
also contribute $47.75 million to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for
In addition to contributions to the regular WHO budget, the United States contributes
on a voluntary basis to special extra-budgetary programs established by the WHO
Assembly. These include programs on tropical disease research, many of the programs
established to fight diseases, and those responding to humanitarian emergencies, as well
as the separately funded Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS. The U.S. contributes to most
of these programs through the Foreign Operations appropriations, but some funds come
from the Department of Health and Human Services budget.
WHO Budget and U.S. Contributions
(in millions of dollars)
CalendarRegular BudgetSpecial (voluntary) Programs
YearTotalU. S. ContributionTotalU.S. Contribution
1992 $367.5 $94.2 $208.7 $39.2
1993 367.5 94.7 228.8 64.7
1994 411.1 104.3 213.7 45.7