The Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund is now over a year old. It was launched on March 13, 2020 to raise money for the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, including the African Union and the World Food Programme, as they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This fund is particularly useful for speedy pandemic response because it’s entirely flexible; in other words, a donor doesn’t get to decide the specific location or type of program where their donation will be used. Overall, the money is supporting Covid response in varied ways. To give a few examples, it’s funding EMT training in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It’s delivering respirators, medical masks, and PCR tests around the world. It’s developing a slightly freaky-eyed AI health assistant named Florence who’s helping smokers to quit (as smokers face more serious consequences from Covid-19). It’s funding medical consultations in Gaza. It’s creating misinformation detection tools together with fact-checking organizations. And it’s funding the development of more vaccine candidates.
Thus far, over 660,000 donors have pledged more than $240 million in total. The figure may sound impressive, but most of the money has not yet been received. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $2 billion WHO is seeking to combat Covid-19 in 2021. (Of course, the majority of funds will come from countries, whether as member dues or as voluntary contributions.)
Of these hundreds of thousands of donors to the Solidarity Response Fund, almost all are individuals. According to WHO, only several hundred donors are corporations, foundations or other institutions. Many of these companies made their pledges early in the pandemic.
The organizations listed on the fund’s supporters page are those that have donated at least $100,000 (including several that have pledged $10 million or more). These include entertainment companies like Nintendo, tech companies like Microsoft, charities like the Gaden Phodrang Foundation of the Dalai Lama, pharmaceutical giants like Johnson & Johnson, fashion brands like Alexander Wang, and finance firms like Discover. Nearly any individual or organization can donate (barring, for instance, tobacco and firearm companies).
Why donate? Well, there are tax benefits to those based in certain countries, not to mention the glow of corporate social responsibility for companies. But more charitably, according to the WHO description, this fund “is the only way for individuals, corporations, foundations, and other organizations around the world to directly support the work of WHO and partners to help countries prevent, detect, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially where needs are greatest”.