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The UN health agency blows around $200 million a year on travel costs so its honchos can fly business class and stay in five-star hotels — more than what it reserves for battling some of the world’s biggest health crisis, the AP reports.
“We don’t trust people to do the right thing when it comes to travel,” the agency’s finance director Nick Jeffreys was caught saying at a 2015 seminar, according to the report.
WHO last year spent around $71 million on AIDS and hepatitis, $61 million on malaria and $59 million on tuberculosis, the wire service reports — although it does allocate a generous $450 million to polio every year.
Meanwhile, the agency’s director-general Dr. Margaret Chan racked up a $370,000 travel bill in one year, and recently stayed in a $1,008-a-night hotel in Guinea, the AP reports.
WHO is nevertheless asking for more moolah to fight disease — and taxpayers will be footing the bill.
UN member countries pay for the agency’s $2 billion annual budget, and the US is the largest contributor.
The agency defended itself by saying “the nature of WHO’s work often requires WHO staff to travel” and noting that it reduced travel costs by 14 percent last year — although that came after the particularly pricey 2014 Ebola outbreak, the AP notes.
And other aid agencies manage to fly staff around on much tighter budgets — the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF spends $140 million a year and has twice the staff, while Doctors Without Borders forbids business-class travel and spends on $43 million a year despite having more than five times as many staffers, the outlet reports.