FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization (WHO) logo is pictured at the entrance of its headquarters in Geneva, January 25, 2015. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – The oversight body of the World Health Organization said on Monday that WHO had “demonstrated leadership” in handling the pandemic and that its performance should be reviewed, but “not during the heat of the response” which could prove disruptive.

The independent panel, in its first report covering the period of January-April, suggested WHO reforms including introducing a “stepped level of alerts” before declaring an international emergency so as to get states’ early attention.

It also suggested that WHO’s 194 member states review the size and surge capacity of WHO’s emergencies programme, saying it annual budget of less than $300 million was “too modest”.

“An imperfect and evolving understanding is not unusual during the early phase of a novel disease emergence. Many uncertainties still remain about COVID-19,” the seven-member panel said. It warned that “rising politicization of pandemic response” is impeding defeat of the virus, adding: “WHO cannot succeed without unified global political support”.

Revealing details of WHO’s second funding appeal, the oversight panel said the WHO would need an estimated $1.7 billion through year-end, leaving it with a “funding gap” of $1.3 billion.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alex Richardson

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