Source description last updated: 15 January 2020

In brief: The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency mandated to advance the global health agenda.

Coverage on

Articles and reports (for countries of priorities A-E).
Covered monthly on


“When diplomats met to form the United Nations in 1945, one of the things they discussed was setting up a global health organization. WHO’s Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948.“ (WHO Website, History of WHO, undated)

“Working with 194 Member States, across six regions, and from more than 150 offices, WHO staff are united in a shared commitment to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere. Together we strive to combat diseases - communicable diseases like influenza and HIV, and noncommunicable diseases like cancer and heart disease. We help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy old age. We ensure the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need. [...] Our primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system. We support countries as they coordinate the efforts of governments and partners - including bi- and multilaterals, funds and foundations, civil society organizations and the private sector.” (WHO Website, About WHO, undated)


Total revenue in 2018 was around US$ 2,900 million of which close to US$ 2,300 million were voluntary contributions. Assessed contributions for 2018 were slightly higher than US$ 500 million. (Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2018, 3 May 2019, p. 15)

 Voluntary contributions “represent revenue recognized from governments, intergovernmental organizations, institutions, other United Nations organizations as well as nongovernment organizations.” (Audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2018, 3 May 2019, p. 52)

For further details, see: (Budget) and (Programmatic and Financial Reports).

Scope of reporting:

Geographic focus: Most countries worldwide.

Thematic focus: The whole range of health related topics, including: mortality rates; HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases; disease outbreaks and emergencies; nutrition disorders; drug and equipment supply; water and sanitation; medical care, hospitals and access to health services; health systems and health reforms; health of mothers, children and the youth; child malnutrition; immunisation programmes; health determinants and statistics; health supplies and human resources; mental disorders and mental health system; alcohol and tobacco consumption; demographic and socio-economic context, health financing; the consequences of natural disasters; epidemiological data, etc.


WHO reports are prepared and written by WHO’s staff working in regional and country offices in cooperation with a wide range of WHO partners (WHO has official relations with NGOs all over the world and maintains relations also with many other international as well as national institutions and organisations).

Information contained in the reports is gathered first-hand by WHO staff or staff of project partners; or is gathered from the reports of other organisations, institutions and agencies, such as UN agencies, the World Bank, national ministries of health, statistical institutes and research centres, regional or local NGOs, etc.

In the process of preparation of reports, advice, contributions and support are given by a number of professionals, who also review the text.

In a report on coordination mechanisms to noncommunicable diseases in South-East Asia, situational analysis is “based on a desk review followed by in-depth interviews.” Desk reviews analyse “country documents pertaining to governance mechanisms for NCDs [noncommunicable diseases] and policies and programmes resulting from multisectoral action. A standard list of nine thematic areas” is provided “for country NCD focal points and WHO NCD focal points to collate and share documents.” Literature received is “analysed using a thematic framework and common threads and divergent trends identified.” Interviews are “conducted with country NCD focal points using a standard interview guide [...] Data from the interviews” is analysed “using a conceptual framework” (World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia, Multisectoral coordination mechanisms and responses to noncommunicable diseases in the South-East Asia Region; Where are we in 2018?, 2019, p. 2-3)

Languages of publications:

English; some of the reports are also published in other official languages of the UN (French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese).

Further reading / links:

WHO Constitution, 22 July 1946

WHO regional offices, undated

All links accessed 15 January 2020.