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, 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.
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."
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.
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.
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