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The World Health Organization (WHO) spends more on travel than it does fighting disease

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The World Health Organization (WHO) spends more on travel than it does fighting disease

WATCH | The World Health Organization is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this week for their 70th assembly to revise policies and review their budget- but the AP reported the organization is outspending other similar departments on traveling luxuries. 

The World Health Organization spends about $200 million a year on travel expenses, which is more than it spends to fight diseases such as AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria combined, according to an AP report.  

The WHO’s two billion dollar budget is funded by participating member states and the United States is the largest contributor.  Their 2016 budget included about $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, $61 million to malaria, $59 million to slow TB, according to documents. 

People know these U.N. jobs can be cushy and come with perks, that you get to travel business class and stay at nice hotels.
Devi Sridhar- professor, University of Edinburgh

Devi Sridhar, a professor in global public health at the University of Edinburgh, described the WHO costs as extremely high and said, “People know these U.N. jobs can be cushy and come with perks, that you get to travel business class and stay at nice hotels.”

She said that U.N. agencies should be subject to independent auditors and freedom of information laws adding that Dr. Veronika Skvortsova, the newly elected President of the 70th World Health Assembly shouldn’t be afraid to make radical changes about WHO staffer travel policies.

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FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, a medical worker sprays people being discharged from the Island Clinic Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel, far more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health including AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, published Sunday, May 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

According to the AP, after meeting with health workers fighting the Ebola virus in West Africa, Secretary General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, spent the night in the presidential suite at the beach-side Palm Camayenne hotel, which has an advertised price of $1,008 per night.

In September 2015, the WHO's director of finance, Nick Jeffreys said in an in-house seminar on accountability that was obtained by the AP, "We don't trust people to do the right thing when it comes to travel."

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This photo shows the five-star Palm Camayenne Hotel in Conakry, Guinea, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. On a recent trip to Guinea where Margaret Chan, General Director of the World Health Organization, praised health workers in West Africa for triumphing over Ebola, she stayed in the presidential suite at the Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, which has an advertised price of 900 euros a night. As the cash-strapped U.N. health agency has pleaded for more money to fund its responses to health crises worldwide, it has also been struggling to get its own travel costs under control. (AP Photo/Youssouf Bah)

The Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, Guinea.

The AP Reports that other aid agencies with large travel and even larger staff operate on a tighter budget than the WHO.

UNICEF, the U.N.'s children's fund, spends $140 million a year and has twice the staff, and Doctors Without Borders does not allow business-class travel and only spends $43 million per year on travel although they have five times the staff.

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FILE - In this Thursday, July 21, 2016 file photo, residents of the Kisenso district receive yellow fever vaccines, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The World Health Organization routinely spends about $200 million a year on travel, far more than what it doles out to fight some of the biggest problems in public health including AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press, published Sunday, May 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

In a press release from the WHO they said, “Travel is an essential aspect of WHO’s global health work - convening experts for collective decision-making on health interventions or traveling experts anywhere in the world that requires technical assistance for global health.”

The WHO says that they are always looking for ways to reduce travel costs and that they have worked on lowering spending rates and booking travel farther in advance as a cost saving measure in 2016. 

You can follow Caroline on Twitter @carolinemckee12.

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