• The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health
  • Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it has six regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide
  • The WHO was established on 7 April 1948
  • The WHO Constitution states its main objective as “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”
  • The WHO fulfills this objective through its functions as defined in its Constitution:
    • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work
    • To establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate
    • To assist Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services
    • To furnish appropriate technical assistance and, in emergencies, necessary aid upon the request or acceptance of Governments
    • To provide or assist in providing, upon the request of the United Nations, health services and facilities to special groups, such as the peoples of trust territories
    • To establish and maintain such administrative and technical services as may be required, including epidemiological and statistical services
    • To stimulate and advance work to eradicate epidemic, endemic and other diseases
    • To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the prevention of accidental injuries
    • To promote, in co-operation with other specialized agencies where necessary, the improvement of nutrition, housing, sanitation, recreation, economic or working conditions and other aspects of environmental hygiene
    • To promote co-operation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health
    • To propose conventions, agreements and regulations, and make recommendations with respect to international health matters and to perform


Governance Structure

    • Membership
      • As of January 2021, the WHO has 194 member states: all member states of the United Nations except for Liechtenstein (192 countries), plus the Cook Islands and Niue
      • A state becomes a full member of WHO by ratifying the treaty known as the Constitution of the World Health Organization
    • World Health Assembly and Executive Board
      • The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the legislative and supreme body of WHO.
      • It appoints the director-general every five years and votes on matters of policy and finance of WHO, including the proposed budget.
        • It also reviews reports of the executive board and decides whether there are areas of work requiring further examination
      • The main functions of the board are to carry out the decisions and policies of the Assembly, to advise it, and to facilitate its work
    • Goodwill Ambassadors
      • The WHO operates “Goodwill Ambassadors”; members of the arts, sports, or other fields of public life aimed at drawing attention to WHO’s initiatives and projects.


Financing and partnerships

  • The WHO is financed by contributions from member states and outside donors
  • As of 2020, the biggest contributor is the United States, which gives over $400 million annually
    • Further, In 2020, the U.S. President Donald Trump, supported by a group of members of his party, announced that his administration would halt funding to the WHO
  • In 2018 the largest contributors ($150+ each) were the United States, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United Kingdom, Germany and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance


India and WHO

  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948
    • The first session of the WHO regional committee was held in 1948, and was inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India and was addressed by the WHO Director-General
  • The WHO Country Office for India is headquartered in Delhi with country-wide presence
  • WHO’s secretariat focuses its work on the following six core functions:
    • providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed
    • shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge
    • setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation
    • articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options
    • providing technical support, catalysing change, and building sustainable institutional capacity; and
    • monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends


WHO programmes in India

  • WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy 2019–2023
    • This has been jointly developed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) of the Government of India (GoI) and the WHO Country Office for India
    • The Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS), provides a strategic roadmap for WHO to work with the GoI towards achieving its health sector goals, improving the health of its population and bringing in transformative changes in the health sector
    • The Four strategic priorities of WHO in India
      • Strategic Priority 1: Accelerate progress on UHC
        • Implementing Ayushman Bharat: Health and Wellness Centres and hospital insurance scheme
        • Monitoring and evaluation of health sector performance
        • Improving access to priority health services such as immunizations, maternal and child health, tuberculosis, hepatitis
        • Digital health ecosystem
        • Eliminating neglected tropical diseases and control of vaccine-preventable and vector-borne diseases
      • Strategic Priority 2: Promote health and wellness by addressing determinants of health
        • Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) action plan roll-out
        • Environmental health, including air pollution
        • Mental health promotion and suicide prevention
        • Nutrition and food safety
        • Road safety
        • Tobacco control
        • Integration of NCD and environmental risk factors in the digital health information platform
      • Strategic Priority 3: Better protect the population against health emergencies
        • Disease surveillance and outbreak detection and response, including International Health Regulation
        • Roll-out of integrated disease surveillance programme using the real-time integrated health information platform (IHIP)
        • Preparedness for, and response to all, emergencies
        • Containment of antimicrobial resistance
      • Strategic Priority 4: Enhance India’s global leadership in health
        • Improving access to medical products of assured quality made in India
        • Development and information sharing of innovations in health practices and technologies including IHIP
        • Strengthening India’s leadership in digital health

Other Interventions include

InterventionDetails of Intervention
Health Management Information System (HMIS)o    The new HMIS has been developed with the technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO).

o    The HMIS is a web-based portal for effectively monitoring the implementation of various programmes under National Health Mission and other national programmes

Interventions to Address Birth Defects, Diseases, Delays and deficiencieso    Establishment of Birth Defects Surveillance System (BDSS)

o    It is as a collaborative effort between MoHFW, and WHO . It is envisaged to establish at least one surveillance centre in each State / UT, preferably in medical college

Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccineo    In 2019, the WHO, South-East Asia Region (SEAR) resolved to eliminate Measles and Rubella by 2023.
Polio Update·         In 2012, WHO removed India from the list of countries with active endemic wild polio virus transmission after reporting of the last case of poliovirus in the country
Laboratory supported surveillance for

diphtheria, pertussis and neonatal tetanus


·         WHO has established a case based laboratory supported DPT surveillance system based on the operational knowledge acquired from surveillance system in country which would be in collaboration with other surveillance systems like Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI)


Malaria elimination·         High Burden and High Impact (HBHI) initiative of WHO was initiated in four States viz. West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in July, 2019 for intensification of malaria elimination activities
Tobacco control·         MoHFW in collaboration with WHO Country Office for India organised an ‘Online Music Concert’ through the Ministry’s social media platform. The Concert engaged Bollywood celebrities and singers/music composers to draw the attention of youth towards tobacco control
COVID-19·         The protocols of WHO were a guiding factor for establishing testing process and for initiating guidelines in India and the world