The World Health Organization Needs the Funding to Do Its Job

The World Health Organization Needs the Funding to Do Its Job
Protesting congressional inaction to fund a federal response to the Zika virus, Sept. 14, 2016, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. (AP Photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today.

The continued impasse in Congress over appropriating funds to combat the Zika virus in the United States perfectly illustrates the challenges that the next American president will face in addressing global health. There is a generalized sense that something needs to be done, but widespread disagreement over who should do what—and who should pay for it.

Global health has received less attention from the media in recent months, as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has largely ended. That does not mean that the underlying issues in the global health system, which Ebola exposed, have gone away. The next U.S. administration is going to face serious challenges in strengthening the international community’s ability to respond to future health crises. Disease outbreaks will continue to happen in the future. The question is what steps can Washington and others take to reduce their size and scope. This is not even necessarily about altruism; a better global health system improves the health safety and security of Americans. Two issues are particularly important: improving disease surveillance and reforming how the World Health Organization (WHO) is financed.

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