WHO chief says he'll review travel costs

2017-07-07 19:24
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London - The new head of the World Health Organisation said on Friday he was reviewing the agency's travel expenses after an Associated Press story revealed the UN agency spendt more on travel than on fighting HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Ethiopia's former health minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, took office earlier this week, replacing China's Dr Margaret Chan. In a "Town Hall" speech given to staffers in Geneva and in regional and country offices, Tedros said he would be examining "the recent uproar over travel costs".

Airplane tickets

In a story published in May, the news agency found that the cash-strapped agency routinely spends about $200m on travel every year and that Chan regularly flew first class.

Last year, WHO spent about $71m on HIV/Aids and hepatitis. It devoted $61m to malaria. To slow the spread of tuberculosis, WHO invested $59m.

According to internal documents obtained by AP, senior officials at the UN health agency have been struggling for years to trim travel costs and have complained that staffers routinely break rules by booking perks like business-class airplane tickets and rooms in five-star hotels.

During the Ebola disaster in West Africa , WHO's travel costs spiked to $234m. Although experts say on-the-ground help was critical, some question whether the agency couldn't have shaved its costs so more funds went to West Africa. The three countries that bore the brunt of the outbreak couldn't afford basics such as protective boots, gloves and soap for endangered medical workers.

Marble bathrooms

When Chan traveled to Guinea in May to join the country's president in celebrating the world's first Ebola vaccine, she spent the night in the presidential suite at the beach-side Palm Camayenne hotel. The suite, equipped with marble bathrooms and a dining room for eight, has an advertised price of $1 008 per night. WHO declined to say if it paid for Chan's stay at the hotel, but said host countries sometimes pick up her tab.

WHO has paid $803m for travel since 2013.  WHO's approximately $2bn annual budget is drawn from the taxpayer-funded contributions of its 194 member countries.  The United States is the largest contributor.
Read more on:    who  |  travel  |  uk

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