Coronavirus emergency aid funding

A snapshot of major donor pledges for #COVID19 preparedness and response.


The costs of responding to coronavirus are challenging healthcare systems and governments in some of the world's richest countries. In poorer countries and war zones, as well as host countries for refugees and other people on the move, the costs could be overwhelming. What international aid money might be needed in those areas, and how much is available?

Billions have been pledged for vaccine and biomedical research efforts and macro-economic stabilisation. Central banks are cutting interest rates, and governments are spending more to support shaky economies. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have promised loans to low- and middle-income countries tackling the crisis. 

But in the most vulnerable countries, where public healthcare is weak at the best of times, adding to public debt is not an attractive solution. The numbers that really matter are for grants – to governments, aid groups, or service providers. Aid funding can pay for more staff, treatment facilities, drugs, and protective equipment.

Some of that money will have to be redirected from existing pots of funding: for example in Afghanistan, a contingency fund managed by the UN has allocated $1.5 million for corona preparedness. The Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria – a large multi-donor aid pool – will allow some funds to be redirected to coronavirus. The UN’s global emergency response fund, the CERF, has put up $15 million. Aid budgets may have to be adjusted in the coming months more radically as the pandemic evolves, potentially diverting spending from other priorities.

It’s likely to become a major area of international aid spending. There is no single listing of the aid funding so far although the World Health Organisation and the US non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation both track a range of pledges and donations.

Leaving aside loans and funding for middle- and high-income countries, here’s a snapshot of emergency funding announcements for coronavirus.

Please contact us if you see gaps or have feedback.

Funding needs

The WHO had, as of 1 February, estimated new global spending requirements of $675 million for three months of “priority public health measures”. It set out planning assumptions in a 28-page document, adding international measures, including research needs. The bulk of it, $640 million, was for countries to prepare and respond. It arrived at a total dollar figure in a three-step process:

  • It ranks 194 countries on five elements of preparedness and response needs: community transmission, localised transmission, Imported cases, high risk of imported cases, preparedness. The rankings of vulnerability continue to be updated here
  • On average, it proposes a country would need roughly $65 million in extra expenditure. 
  • Then, the document tabulates the amount of foreign aid needed proportional to the country’s readiness: “category 5” countries would need 100 percent of the spending package and 41 “category 1” countries can look after themselves. 


A public online fundraising drive has started at: for the $675 million WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

As for its own role, the WHO has asked for $61.5 million to support its work during the same February-April period, and looks set to comfortably exceed that target, with $51 million already paid, and $104 million pledged. Its biggest donors are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US and UK governments – all three paying over $7 million.

Funding requests

Other agencies have made appeals [updated 23 March]: 

Available funds


$ million

World Bank


EU other*


UK via IMF


Germany (incl $27m via WHO)




Bloomberg Philanthropies








EU via WHO


Gates Foundation


China via WHO






Saudi Arabia 


Sources: WHO, Kaiser Family Foundation, UN, *TNH estimate

Notes: Funds for China, an “upper middle-income” country are not included. This listing only includes pledges of grant funding for low-income countries and emergency responses greater than $10 million.  

(Updated 20 March 2020)

In kind donations

  • The equivalent money value is unclear, but internet and social media companies are donating advertising slots and prominent placements to the WHO and other public health bodies to provide public health messages, while putting resources towards countering myths and taking down misinformation and profiteers. Facebook’s CEO said it would give the WHO “as many free ads as they need”. Google said it was giving WHO ad space nominally valued at $25 million.

One to watch

(Updated 23 March 2020)


Behind the headlines: How will COVID-19 impact crisis zones? | Thursday 19 March

Aid agencies are scrambling to adapt as the COVID-19 pandemic is felt throughout the world. Join Senior Editor Ben Parker as he speaks to leading experts and practitioners from across the humanitarian sector to discuss some of the most pressing issues.

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