In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, health care workers around the world were in desperate need of personal protective equipment (PPE), virus testing kits, and other essential supplies. At the same time, the health-focused global supply chains and factories that might meet the demand were hobbled not just by disruptions from the virus but also an inability to increase capacity quickly.
The organization leading the global health response to COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO), knew that overcoming these challenges would require solutions that were extraordinarily quick, extensive, adaptable, and costly. Getting fast access to substantial funds that could be flexibly spent would make the difference between life and death, as veterans of many disasters know.
Several barriers stood in the way. Like many international organizations, the WHO depends on support from governments, which can be slower to distribute funds and also restrict how monies can be used. Additionally, during the early stages of COVID-19, governments understandably prioritized their own nations’ health crises, leaving even fewer resources to share. Finally, even if the WHO wanted to tap into alternative sources of funding, it lacked the infrastructure to receive donations at scale from entities other than United Nations member states.
What it needed was a way to rapidly involve what the WHO would normally consider non-traditional donors—the millions of individuals, philanthropies, and companies around the world who were ready and willing to support its response to the pandemic.
Enter the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The project—spearheaded by the UN Foundation and made possible by its two-decade partnership with the WHO—raised more than $247 million from approximately 665,000 donors in 190 countries. In its first two months of existence, the fund brought in more than $200 million.
Read the full article about the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund by Elizabeth Cousens at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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