Intended for healthcare professionals


The WHO Foundation and conflicts of interest

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: (Published 20 February 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p392
  1. Agnes Binagwaho, retired vice chancellor1,
  2. Kedest Mathewos, research associate2
  1. 1University of Global Health Equity, Kigali, Rwanda
  2. 2University of Global Health Equity
  1. Correspondence to: K Mathewos kmathewos{at}

Scrap the new foundation and strengthen WHO policies on taking private sector donations

In 2021, the World Health Organization Foundation accepted a $2.2m donation from the multinational food and drink company Nestlé to support WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.1 This caused controversy, given Nestlé’s non-compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.2 In response, the foundation redirected the donation to its own “Go Give One” vaccine campaign and announced that it would no longer accept donations from Nestlé.

WHO has a funding problem: it faces a shortfall of more than $660m in the two years 2022-23. Only 16% of its budget is covered by member states’ regular contributions.34 The rest is covered by voluntary donations from member states, other UN bodies, and private philanthropic organisations. These are often short term and earmarked for specific projects. Reliance on voluntary donations exposes WHO to the undue influence of contributors,56 impedes strategic planning, and leads to shortfalls and inflexibility.4

Ideally, WHO’s work would be funded through increasing country …

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