Frequently asked questions

What is the World Health Organization?

Founded in 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency dedicated to global health and safety. The Organization connects nations, partners and communities to promote health and serve the vulnerable. WHO works with its Member States to achieve the highest level of health for all people by pursuing universal health coverage.

WHO headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO is governed by 194 Member States grouped into 6 regions. Each region is represented by a regional office, which coordinates programming in country offices and field offices. The WHO regions are:


What does WHO do?

WHO works globally to promote health, expand universal health coverage and respond to emergencies. The Thirteenth General Programme of Work 2019–2023 aims to achieve the Triple Billion targets:

  • One billion more people are benefiting from universal health coverage.
  • One billion more people are better protected from health emergencies.
  • One billion more people are enjoying better health and well-being.

To achieve these targets, WHO focuses on primary health care in every country to improve access to quality essential services. This includes training the health work force, supporting policy development and working towards sustainable financing for health systems.

WHO also responds to emergencies including natural disasters, conflicts and displaced populations. Acting in a coordinating leadership role, WHO provides medical supplies and equipment, doctors and other medical professionals, and support for local governments.


How is WHO funded?  

WHO receives funding through membership dues paid by Member States and voluntary contributions from Member States and other partners. Calculated as a percentage of each country’s gross domestic product, membership dues are assessed every 2 years at the World Health Assembly. Less than 20% of WHO’s total budget comes from membership dues, while the remainder comes from voluntary contributions, largely from Member States as well as from other United Nations organizations, intergovernmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, the private sector and other sources.


How can I support the work of WHO?

WHO’s work in public health relies on the contributions and collaboration of many groups and individuals around the world including governments, donors, scientists, experts, implementing partners and advocates.

Individuals and corporate partners can make financial contributions or in-kind donations or expertise to support our work through the independent WHO Foundation.

Individuals can also assist WHO by contributing expertise to our workforce through our careers section, participating in expert groups, as well as supporting our health guidance and messages in your health work and through discussions on social media. 


Is WHO a religious organization?  

WHO is not a religious organization and is not affiliated with any specific spiritual belief. The Organization celebrates the diversity of faiths around the world as reflected by its Member States.


Is WHO a non-governmental organization (NGO)?

WHO is an international organization composed of a group of Member States, and so it is not an NGO. Each Member State has a voice in determining the direction and targets of the Organization. WHO works with many local and international NGOs, as well as governments and other partners, to achieve its goals.


What is the WHO definition of health?

The preamble to WHO’s constitution provides a definition of health:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”


Where can I find career and internship opportunities at WHO?

The WHO careers section provides information about working at WHO, including types of recruitment contracts and internship opportunities. Current positions are posted to the job board, where you can create a personal profile and submit an application. Information on internships is also available in our careers section under the internship programme.


How do I sell my products or services to WHO?

Procurement of goods and services is a critical part of WHO’s mandate to direct and coordinate international health work. All procurement activities are subject to our guiding principles, which focus on fairness, integrity, transparency and equal treatment.


Can I link to the WHO website from my website? How do I request a link from the WHO website to my site?

Any external website may add a hyperlink to the WHO website without requesting permission. However, this use must not infringe WHO's intellectual property rights, in particular relating to its name, emblem, copyright or authors' rights. WHO does not normally provide links to external websites unless there is a clear association with WHO's activities.


Where can I find WHO publications?

Visit our publications page for the latest WHO publications, journals, series and guidelines.  WHO also maintains a repository of all official publications. A separate hub for publications specific to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is also available. 


Does WHO offer scholarships or grants?

While WHO does not have a scholarship or grant programme, certain WHO programmes and departments do fund research. In addition, some WHO regional offices offer fellowship and scholarship opportunities in cooperation with local ministries of health.  WHO programmes may also provide funding for WHO collaborating centres.


How can I find information about a specific topic?

The WHO website features several hubs that can be used to find information by health topic, country, year or type. These are useful places to start researching an area of interest:


You may also want to find information by:


Why are countries referred to the way they are?

The official names of WHO Member States and their sequence in alphabetical lists produced by WHO are based on the names received from the Member States and the United Nations. Some Member States are referred to using a long-form name for official uses and a shorter version for more routine descriptions.


Why do some WHO maps have dotted borders?

Dotted lines on maps produced by WHO represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement. The boundaries, names and designations used on maps do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WHO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area, of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.


I am travelling abroad soon. Where can I find information and advice on health risks?

The latest information on international travel, including current recommendations on travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, is available on the travel advice page.

WHO has prepared an eBook on ways to stay healthy while travelling internationally. It includes guidance on the medical risks of travelling, vaccines, items to take with you and more.

WHO recommends consulting a travel medicine clinic or medical practitioner before travelling internationally. Travellers are also encouraged to review active travel advisories for your destination country, which are often available from the government of your home country.


Have I received a scam email?

Scam emails made to look like they are from or associated with the World Health Organization have been circulating on the internet. These emails may request information or money from individuals, businesses or non-profit organizations with the promise that they will receive funds or other benefits in return. These emails sometimes carry the WHO logo and come from or mention an email address made to look like a WHO or United Nations address.

These emails are not sent from WHO or associated with WHO projects or events.

More information is available on our cyber security page. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an email, letter or phone call that suggests that it is from or connected with WHO, please report the misinformation online or contact us.